Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Marinette didn’t know when the tears started, all she knew was the distant fact that they were cold against her cheeks. She felt as if she was suffocating. She couldn’t breath. She needed to breath. She needed to breath so badly. But she couldn’t. Couldn’t force the air into her lunges. Something, something was blocking it. Her throat constricted again as the anger, almost hatred filled glares came back into focus. Glares that were directed at her. She didn’t even know what she had done this time. They were all yelling at her, accusing her of something, but Marinette couldn’t hear them. Everything had turned to static. It vaguely sounded like mic feedback, like something you would here at a concert when the mic would scream. She needed out. She needed to breath. She tried to focus on something else, anything else, but her mind shot her back, bringing up other memories she wanted to forget.
Tiny, eight-year-old Marinette cowering behind the couch, forcing herself not to breath as her foster parents fought, screaming at each other in a drunken rage. Hugging the shivering little two-year-old boy tight to her chest, trying to shush him as his parents fighting got physical. The sound of shattering glass and slamming doors echoing in her ears.
Hiding bruises from the teachers as the older kids bullied her into doing their homework. She owed them, after all, for being a freak. For being two grades ahead. For being with them. For being smarted then them. Slamming into lockers, tripping in the halls. Busting her lip on the playground. Always with the excuse that she was clumsy. Threats of harm is she ever told.
Stumbling over her words as the new class laughed at her. Trying to learn French and attempting to make friends only to be bullied again when she learned faster then normal. Charity case, loser, freak, half-breed, orphan, names whispered behind her back and hissed in her ears as she walked through the halls. Homework stolen. Drawings destroyed.
Crying silently at night, clutching an old pendent hanging from braided string. Trying to make the nightmare go away. Trying to remember her brother’s laugh, praying he was still alive. That he was looking for her.
Heat. Burning heat. The sound of fire roaring like a monster, of wood breaking. Glass shattering. Smoke. So much smoke it burned her eyes. She couldn’t breath. The stench of something burning, shrieks of pain and terror echoing in her ears. Then silence. Cold silence.
Wailings of sirens. Flashing lights. And blood. So much blood. He wouldn’t wake up. She tried again and again, but he wouldn’t open his eyes. She couldn’t lose him. Not him. She needed him. She needed him. Screaming his name as someone tried to take her away. Telling her it would be alright. Telling her that the strange people surrounding him were going to help him. That she would see him when he got better. That everything was going to be alright. But she knew it wasn’t. It wouldn’t be. Not if he wouldn’t wake up. Not if they took her away.
A sharp flash of pain crossed her face, her whole head jerking sideways from the force of the blow. The shock of the blow snapped Marinette out of her trance. Turning her head, she found Alya standing in front of her, arm still raised from the slap, her eyes burning bright with rage.
“How could you do something like that?” Aly screamed at her, her lips pulling back into a snarl.
Marinette could only stare at the person she had once considered her best friend, her breath constricting painfully again. Marinette didn’t even know what she had ‘done’ this time. Her eyes darted around the room, trying to find anything that would tell her what had happened. But all she found were rage filled faces, until her eyes locked with Lila’s. Lila, who had caused so much trouble since she arrived in Marinette’s life. Lila, who had promised Marinette that she would make her life miserable. Lila, whose every word was a lie. Lila, who had fake tears rolling down her face in torrents as the class comforted her. Lila, who met Marinette’s gaze with the sick look of victory.
Marinette’s eyes quickly bounced to Adrien. He had her back. He said he did. He promised. But all she found there was disappointment and . . . anger. He was angry. At her. And she didn’t even know what she had ‘done.’
Opening her mouth, she was about to ask what had happened, but Lila, well, Lila took that moment to start up her act again.
“I-I-I-I j-j-just wan-n-n-t-t-t-e-d-d-d t-t-to l-o-o-o-o- look n-n-nice.” Lila wailed, her tears cascading down her face, her make-up running, leaving black streaks behind. It looked like she was going to say more, but she just buried her face in Adrien’s shirt, quaking like a leaf.
“How could you? Do you know how long Lila worked on that dress? You knew she was going to wear it today! You knew how excited she was to see her childhood friend! But you just had to go and ruin it! I don’t know why you hate Lila so much. She’s been nothing but sweet and kind and caring and all you do is tear her down and bully her! Oh yeah, don’t think she hasn’t told us about that. Really Marinette? Threats? That’s low, even for you!” Alya hissed, her voice rising the longer she spoke until she was screaming at her.
“Seriously dude, not cool.”
“Why would you do something like that.”
“Lila worked so hard on it.”
“I can’t believe we were friends.”
“Go back to whatever rock you crawled out of!”
“W … what are talking about. I … I didn’t wreck anything.” Marinette tried to defend herself, but her words were swallowed up by the insults thrown at her.
“Yes! Yes you did!” Alya hissed, throwing a completely mangled piece of fabric at the girl.
Looking down at it, Marinette felt her breath hitch. She recognized it. She knew this dress. It was hers. She had made it when it was announced the class was going to Gotham. She had based it off what her brother had always worn and the nights of Gotham. It was a tribute. A tribute to him. And now she could barely recognized it.
“Alya, please. This …” Marinette tried to explain, she tried to show her, but was cut off abruptly by Adrien.
“Marinette. Just apologize to Lila.” He growled, cutting off her off. Denying her the chance to defend herself. He was looking at her with so much contempt and something that almost looked pleading that Marinette choked on what little air she had left.
The entire class was glaring at her, waiting for the apology. The glares, the angry, hateful glares froze her. She couldn’t move. She could barely think. The image of Lila crying, the class glaring, the ruined dress, the curl of Alya’s mouth as it formed a snarl, her arm poised to strike, was burned into her mind’s eye.
As the arm began to descend, Marinette’s fight or flight instinct kicked in, adrenaline flooded her body as she followed the one thing her entire body was screaming at her to do. She ran. Bolted from the room, from the glares, from her classmates, from her ‘friends,’ from everything. The flood of voices echoed in her mind as blood pounded in her ears.
She ran. Everything fading out of existence as she ran. Trying desperately to outrun those words. Trying to stop the tears that poured down her face. She ran, and ran, and ran. She could barley hear what sounded like shouting, but it blended in with the pounding in her ears. She couldn’t breath. Dear God, she couldn’t breath. Screeching breaks brought her mind back into focus. Someone was shouting. Multiple people were shouting. Her eyes snapped into focus in time to see the front of a truck baring down on her. The horror on the driver’s face when they realized they wouldn’t stop in time. At that moment, with her eyes blown wide, Marinette felt her heart stop.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
There were few things that take Jim Gordon by surprise anymore. After being a cop for thirty years, chief commissioner for ten of them, he had seen it all. Villains come and go, heroes rise and fall, comrades fall in service, dirty cops, political corruption, nearly dying multiple times, his daughter nearly being killed by the Joker. You name it, he’s seen it. So the sight of a tiny girl running through the streets of Gotham wasn’t something he would’ve taken much notice in, he shouldn’t have, really. But the fact that this tiny girl was effectively shoving aside people twice, if not three times her weight as if they were nothing, did. Angry shouts followed the girl, but she was either ignoring them, or she couldn’t hear them. When she came in contact with him, the force behind her shove nearly sent him into the wall. But he caught a glimpse of her face. She looked … panicked. He could barely make out the tears before she was gone. Bolting straight into traffic.
The angered shouts instantly turned panicked when the crowd saw the truck fly around a blind corner, heading straight for the girl.
“KID, LOOK OUT!”
At the exact moment that was shouted, the driver slammed on the breaks in a desperate attempt to stop. The sound a squealing breaks filled the air just as the girl looked up and froze. For a moment, time seemed to stand still as everyone realized that the truck wouldn’t stop in time. Allowing them time to mentally prepare themselves to witness the crash.
Gordon wasn’t aware when he had started moving. He honestly didn’t. All he knew was that he was running faster then he had ever ran in his life. For him, it was as if the world was moving in slow motion. He could clearly make out the second the driver’s face shifted when they knew they couldn’t stop. He saw, heart twisting in panic, as the girl’s body stiffened, bracing for impact. How her eyes, blown and filled with panic, stayed fixed on the truck. Gordon swore he felt his heart stop the moment he tackled her, the truck clipping them, sending them both spinning. Turning their bodies mid-fall, Gordon took the brunt of it before they rolled to a stop.
Ears ringing and heart in his throat, Gordon slowly uncurled himself from the girl. Scanning the streets, he was thankful to find all traffic had stopped, though burning rubber penetrated the air. Ugly, black tire tracks lead to the truck that had stopped about fifteen-twenty feet from where the had been standing. Turning his attention back to the girl, Gordon found her still curled in a defensive ball, shaking.
“Miss, its ok. You’re alright. Your safe.” Gordon said, trying to keep his voice as low and calming as possible.
When he didn’t get a response, he tried again. This time, gently laying his hand on her shoulder to shake her. Still no response. By now, the crowds had gathered, all with phones out, presumable recording, and Gordon’s concern had spiked. Slowly rolling her, the first thing Gordon took notice of was the rapidly rising hand print displayed on her right cheek, accompanied by a busted lip. Next was her eyes. Big, blue, and completely dilated with panic. He wasn’t even sure if she knew what was going on. Finally, and most concerning was her breathing. The pattern was sporadic, coming in short bursts, and much to fast.
“Miss, listen. I need you to calm down. Your hyperventilating. I need you to take slow, deep breaths. Do you understand?” Gordon said, trying desperately to get the girl to focus on him.
“Je … Je … n-n-ne peut pas respirer. Je ne peux pas respirer!” She manage to choke out, tears steaming down her face as her hands flew to her throat, grasping at her necklace.
Gordon hadn’t spoken French since high school. Even back then he was never good at it. And this girl kept repeating that same phrase over and over. The crowd wasn’t helping, the noise they were making only seemed to drive the already panicked girl deeper into her panic attack.
“Give the girl some space! Anyone who doesn’t know how to speak French I need you quiet! You’re only making her panic attack worse!” Gordon shouted, his patience snapping at the crowd before turning on his comm. “This is Gordon. I need a crew down here with a medical team stat. Minor was almost hit by a car. Suspected abuse on the minor. I also need a French translator.” He barked, turning his attention back to the girl, trying desperately to remember what little French he learned.
“C’est bon, c’est bon.” It was the only thing he could remember.
The girl seemed to snap out of whatever world she had locked herself in when he whispered those words. Her eyes cleared a little, showing understanding. Suddenly, Gordon found his arms full as she launched herself at him. She was even smaller then he had first thought. This kid weight almost nothing. Small arms anchored themselves around him as she buried her face into his shirt. Her body jerking violently with sobs. Streams of broken French spilled out in-between the tears, but it was so choppy that Gordon had no hopes of understanding. The girl felt like she was breaking apart. Like she could shatter at any minute. So Gordon did the only thing he could. He held her, slowly rocking her as he stroked her hair. Continuing to whisper that one phrase over and over.
He wasn’t sure how long they stayed like that. It felt like hours, but he knew it could have only been minutes until he heard the familiar wails of sirens. Soon two crews were pushing the crowds back and clearing a path for the medics.
“Commissioner, what happened?”
Looking up, Gordon found the familiar face of Montgomery Hill. At the sound of the new voice, the girl tried to grow smaller as the grip on his jacket tightened.
“I’ll explain later. Do you have the translator?”
“I’m right here.”
Turning in the direction of the voice, Gordon saw a young man, twenty-four if he had to guess, push his way through the thickening crowd. The guy was tall, well built, messy brown hair that was windswept, and mismatching eyes.
“Commissioner, this is Mark Spencer. He works at the airport, we pulled him from the security team.” Hill explain, waving the medics over to assess the girl.
But as they tried to puller her away from Gordon, she let one of the most desperate screams Gordon had ever heard. One that began nagging at his mind. He had heard it somewhere before. He knew he had. The sudden commotion caused the crowds to press in again as the medic pulled his hands away.
“Spencer.” Growled Hill, spurring the young translator into action.
“Miss, it’s ok. They’re medics. They just want to make sure your ok. That your not hurt. It’s ok. They’re not going to hurt you.”
The girl just stiffened at his words, but she stopped screaming. Gordon caught Spencer’s eyes.
“Ask her name. Introduce yourself. You need to get her to calm down.” Gordon instructed, his hand still running through the girls hair.
“Miss, I’m Mark Spencer. I work at Gotham International Airport as a translator. Can I know your name?”
“M - Ma - Mar - inette”
“Marinette. That’s a very pretty name. Can you tell me your last name?”
“…Du - Dupain-Ch - Cheng.”
“Ok, that’s good. Where are you from Marinette?”
“P-P-Paris. My … my class is h-here on a s-sch- school t-t-trip.”
“Paris. Wow, you’re a long way from home. Alright, Marinette. We need you to let the medic’s look at you. We need to make sure your alright. They are not going to hurt you, I promise. Me and you friend are going to be right there with you alright. But I need you to let go, ok.”
Gordon watched as the two of them talked, almost wincing at how broken the girl, Marinette, sounded. She was silent for a few moments, just staring at Spencer before she slowly loosened her grip on Gordon. Both Gordon and Spencer gave her encouraging smiles as she let the medics look her over.
As Spencer translated for them, Gordon studied the girl. Now that he could see her, he could only curse silently at the person who had put her in that state. The entire right side of her face was swollen, the hand print still very visible. Her bottom lip was busted, if was from the slap or from him tackling her, he couldn’t tell. But it was Her eyes that worried him, they were still dilated, the blue only appeared in a small ring around her pupil. Their eyes met for a moment. As sharp baby blue collided with cloudy bluebells, Gordon felt a jolt run through him. He had seen those eyes before.He didn’t know how or when, but at some point in time he had looked into those eyes.The longer he studied her, the more sure he became.
As she offered him one of the saddest smiles he had ever seen, Gordon swore he was going to find out what happened to her. Catching Hill’s eye, Gordon knew he wasn’t alone in that thought. Whoever was behind this was going to have a lot to answer for.
Turning his attention back to the crowds, Gordon let out an exhausted sigh. This was going to be a long day.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
“What’s got you into such a bad mood?”
The Wayne family were, for once, all home relaxing in one of the sitting rooms. Bruce, Dick, and Tim were discussing some aspect of Wayne Enterprises, Jason was channel surfing, while Damian had sunk into the couch with an irritated frown etched on his face. They had all noticed the change in the youngest but had refrained from asking earlier, but everyone was curious as to what had happened. No one was surprised when Jason had asked the question. Turning his glare at Jason did nothing to the older boy, all it did was make him raise a brow, waiting for an answer.
“Today was an annoyance.”
“Ha, when isn’t a day an annoyance to you? Naw, something else happened that ticked you off more normal.” Jason stated, popping a handful of candy into his mouth.
Damian would never understand how someone who acted so tough and violent could eat anything that colourful and full of sugar. Jason had been like that for as long as he had known him, and according to Dick, even longer.
“So, what happened?” Jason prodded again, grabbing another handful of candy.
Growling , Damian’s mind returned to early that day.
He was running late. He was never late. But there had to be an accident at the main intersection that backed up traffic, causing him to have to take a rather lengthy detour. Racing through the halls, he made it through the door just as the bell rang. The teacher, Mr. Spinale wasn’t there yet, which Damian thanked whatever god was out there. But that didn’t mean the rest of the class didn’t notice.
“I never thought I would live to see the day that the Damian Wayne would be late!” Claude shouted, shooting up from his seat.
Claude was … interesting. He was a loud mouth boy, who, no matter how blatantly Damian had ignored or told him off, kept coming back to tease him. By all fronts, Claude was a very likable person and had multiple friends. But he seemed to enjoy courting danger if his hobby of riling up the Ice Prince was any indication.
“And here I thought you were incapable of arriving before the bell rings.” Damian shot back, taking his seat. A series of ‘ooohhhs’ followed as Claude just laughed it off.
Before the anyone could say anything else, Mr. Spinale came in followed by fifteen other people, fourteen of them students. They were all chatting in French, but they all seemed to be enraptured by a story one of the girls was telling. Subconsciously, Damian’s mind assessed them and labeled them all as non-threats.
“Class, as you all should know, our school is hosting an exchange program with multiple international schools. Each school sent a class to represent them for three month.” Mr. Spinale stated. Damian could vaguely remember it being announced. It had been a contest or something with the best schools of other countries or something like that. Damian had never payed attention to it. “These students represent Collège Françoise Dupont of Paris, France. I expect you All to make them feel welcome” He instructed the class, casting Damian a meaningful look before turning to the exchange class. For a second, Damian saw confusion flash through Mr. Spinale’s eyes. “I’m sorry, Ms. Bustier. I was informed there was fifteen students. There’s only fourteen here.”
It was slight, but Damian caught the shift in the new class. They all looked as if they had tasted something bitter. The rest of his classmates didn’t seem to notice it, not that they noticed anything, but their reaction to the mention of said missing classmate intrigued him. Usually, a class would be worried if one of their own were missing. Or at least that’s what he had been told.
“We do, but the last one, Marinette, was sick today, so we left her at the hotel. But she should be here tomorrow or the day after.” The red headed teacher, Bustier, said. She had on a cheerful smile that didn’t sit right with Damian. As if she hiding something, or at the very lest wasn’t telling the whole truth.
Apparently Mr. Spinale felt the same way if the near unnoticeable narrowing of his eyes were any indication, but he just nodded once before directing the new students to sit down. It was no surprise to Damian when they grouped together, nor when a small argument broke out over who would sit with story girl.
As classes wore on, Damian watch in mild amusement as the two classes tried to interact. Key word was tried. Majority of the new class knew only basic English, while his classmates were mediocre in French. He ignored all attempts of conversation from the exchange class, sending them away with a bored glare or by immersing himself in a book. But while he didn’t talk with them, he did take the time to study them. Most of them were nothing special, nothing he would concern himself with, with the exception of one student. The one who had been the center of attention when they came in. The one who appeared to be everyone’s favorite. He quickly learned she was Italian, and a compulsive liar, if you could call her stories such. He listened as she fed her classmates story after story with so many names being dropped that he was honestly shocked that they believed them. No one, and he means no one who was anyone, would ever drop as many names as this girl was. In all honesty, he was disgusted at the sight.
Another thing he noticed was that the girl, was that she seemed hellbent on cozying up and charming anyone she deemed important or could possibly be influential in the class. So when she set her sights on him, Damian knew what he could expect. With what she thought to be an attractive sway on her hips, she sauntered up to him. Latching onto his arm, she introduced herself as Lila and began to spew a horrible lie of knowing the Wayne family, his family, and had the audacity to say that she was an honorary member of the family, practically being adopted by the boys themselves. So Damian did what he did best.
“I don’t care who you are, or who you think you know. But if you don’t remove yourself from my arm and my vicinity, then you’ll have a lot more to worry about then what rip-off brand you’ll be wearing tomorrow. Besides,” Damian said, barely casting a glance in her direction. “I don’t affiliated myself with someone as … tacky as yourself.” A slight sneer made its way to his face as he forcefully removed his arm from her grasp.
He had spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. Majority of the students who knew him simple shrugged before returning to their previous occupations. Some gave the girl pitying looks, but it wasn’t a new occurrence. They had lost count of how many girls had tried to cozy up with the Ice Prince only to end up burnt.
For five, long seconds, Lila did nothing. It was as his words had frozen her. In that time, Damian watched as a flurry of emotions flash though her olive green eyes, eyes that reminded him of a snake. Shock, embarrassment, anger, confusion, where a few he could decipher before they settled on anger.
Almost instantly, her whole face changed as tears sprang to life, hurrying down her face before she let out one of the fakest sobs Damian had ever heard. This seemed to spur her class out of their stupor and rushing to her side as the snake started spouting out more lies in French.
“Hey! Why did you say that? She was … trying to be nice!” A dark, bi-spectacle redhead demanded, her thick French accent made her broken English harder to understand.
“Then she should learn about personal space.” With that final piece of advice, Damian grabbed his bag and strode out of the room, an aggravated scowl etching its way on his face for the rest of the day.
The rest of the day proceeded in the same fashion. The next three months were going to be very, very long.
“She actually said that!”
Damian shot Jason a glare that promised painful retaliation as said brother laughed. His other brothers where no help as they tried, miserably, to hid their amusement. Bruce was just shaking his head at the boys antics. Alfred had the smallest smile playing on his face, one that if you looked to long made you question if it was there at all.
“I hate you all.” Damian muttered, glaring at the lot of them
“I’m sorry, it’s just. Wow. I almost wish I could see that for myself, and I am all out of candy. I’ll be right back.” Jason said, jumping off the couch and disappearing around the corner.
“How does he eat so much of that stuff?”
“We have no idea. Oh, turn on the news. They’re suppose to cover that crash at the intersection.” Tim said.
“ … As many of you know, the intersection on Main and Boulevard was closed this morning due to what could have been, a fatal collision. At 8:15 this morning, a young girl was near struck by a speeding Toyota Tundra. If it wasn’t for the quick thinking of Police Commissioner James Gordon, it would have been a fatal collision. We have had dozens of videos submitted showing before, during, and after the near incident.”
The image was then cut to a shaky video taken from a phone, show Commissioner Gordon bolting for a very tiny girl who was frozen in the path of the oncoming truck. The video showed Gordon tackling the girl. The view fell to the ground as the cameraman ran out into the street, catching Gordon yelling at the crowd while barking orders into his comm. It showed the girl had launched herself at Gordon with a heart wrenching cry. Gordon’s shocked face as he held the breaking girl, stroking her hair in a effort to calm her.
“As you can see, the civilian wasn’t injured in the crash, but some other footage showed something interesting.”
Another video appeared. This time, the sound was muffled but the footage was clear. It showed Gordon still holding the girl as someone was talking to her. As she turned her head, the camera caught a full view of her face. The frame froze, giving viewer a clear picture of her wide eyes dilated with panic, the swollen right side of her face, with a hand print displayed for all to see.
The sound of glass shattering snapped the entire family’s attention away from the news as the anchorman continued to talk. Their eyes landed on Jason, who stood frozen in the doorway, shattered glass mixed with candy lay scattered around him. Damian was about to snap at him when he saw the look on his brother’s face. Complete, utter shock and fear was etched on Jason’s face.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
The Gotham City Police Department was always busy. Gordon could not, in all his years of service, remember a single, quiet day at the office. Today proved to be no different. Ever since the first video of the ‘crash’ was uploaded, the station had been flooded with calls and visitors. From reporters wanting statements to just people wanting to know what was going on. Needless to say, the station had turned into a mad house.
The girl, Marinette, had adamantly refused to be taken to the hospital to be thoroughly examined. Gordon hadn’t pushed the issue. The girl was already on edge enough as it was and she didn’t need another reason to panic. So they managed to compromise. Between Gordon and Spencer, they had convinced Marinette to allow a doctor come to the station. ‘Just to be safe.’ She was currently in one of the back offices, as far away from the chaos as Gordon could get her. Spencer and one of the female personal were staying with her. Spencer’s main job was to keep her distracted and try, discreetly, to get some information from her. But Marinette hadn’t spoken since she had arrived at the station. All she did was listen to whatever Spencer was going on about. She had started to doodle after an hour and currently had an impressive stack of drawings beside her.
The doctor had arrived around an hour ago and was currently examining her.
“Hill, tell me we got something on her teacher. We need to contact her stat, and Marinette’s not saying anything.” Gordon shouted over the clamour of the office. “And get those reporters out of the lobby! The GCPD does not have any comments.”
“Airport security is faxing everything over, it’ll be here in a few minutes. Jackson, you heard the chief, get those reporters out of here.”
“Once it comes through, I want you to find out where they’re staying and get in contact with that teacher. I don’t care if you have to call every damn hotel in the city, just get it done. We need to find out what happened and why she was alone.” Gordon ordered, his voice straining slightly.
Collapsing onto his desk, Gordon raked his hands through his hair, a frustrated groan making its way out. He could understand why the girl wasn’t talking. Anyone in her place was likely to do the same. While it was making things slightly harder on their end, Gordon couldn’t bring himself to blame her. The poor girl was terrified by just letting a doctor look at her. Heck, she wouldn’t even let Gordon leave. They had to bribe her with a giant bowl of skittles they had stolen from Jackson, and if he had an issue with his candy being stolen, he never should have left it in the breakroom.
Glancing up, he found Dr. Allen, one of the doctors the GCPD had a contract with, standing by his desk, waiting to give Gordon her report on Marinette.
“How is she?” He asked, offering the her a chair. Dr. Allen all but fell into the offered seat, a long, drawn out sigh escaping as she did so. This caused Gordon to tense. He had known Dr. Allen for years, and she only ever did this if something was seriously wrong.
“As far I can tell, nothing’s broken. But I can’t be sure until I do an x-ray, and …”
“ … And she refuses to go to the hospital.”
“Exactly. Now as I said, there doesn’t appear to be anything broken. The swelling on her cheek will go down, but she will have severe bruising for weeks. She also has severe subconjunctival hemorrhaging in her right eye. It should heal fine, but I would suggest that she goes to see an eye specialist to make sure.”
“Broken blood vessels in the eye. Like I said, it should heal fine, but a good precaution would be to go seen an eye doctor.”
A beat of silence stretched between the two. Dr. Allen ran a hand through her hair, unconsciously biting her lip, a habit she had when she was contemplating what to say. Gordon just waited. Whatever she had to say was important enough for her to hesitate. When she finally spoke, she chose her words carefully.
“Physically, the girl’s going to recover fine. But mentally? Emotionally? Gordon, I’m gonna be frank, something’s wrong. I don’t know if it’s an environment or a relationship or something else, but something is wrong. Gordon, I’m scared for her. Something is going on and she needs help.”
As Dr. Allen spoke, her face revealed so much concern that it was almost palatable, leaving a sour taste in Gordon’s mouth. He didn’t even bother to mask his sigh. He agreed with her observations. He knew something was wrong, but unless they had solid evidence or if she told them what was going on, there was very little they could do. She wasn’t American. They couldn’t just send social services to investigate. They needed to have something solid in order to intervein. If they didn’t, they could have a very messy international affair on their hands.
“Listen Gordon, I have to get back to the hospital. But keep me informed, ok? Do some digging. Try to get more information on her.”
“What do you think I have my department doing?” Gordon said, a small, teasing smile making it’s way onto his face
“Just keep me informed.” With those final instructions, she gave Gordon on last smile before leaving.
For minutes after the departure of Dr. Allen, Gordon just sat at his desk. The buzzing of the office faded into the back round as he thought about what Dr. Allen said. While he had been sometimes known to misjudge something, she had never been wrong in an assumption. That alone worried him. If she noticed and brought it up to him personally, something was really, very, very wrong.
A stack of files slammed onto Gordon’s desk, knocking him back to the present. The bang caused everyone within a three desks radius to jump. Glancing up, Gordon found himself looking into the triumph face of Detective Jessica Hoffman.
Detective Hoffman was new to the force. She had only been in service for six month. She was cocky, irritating, hardly ever listened to instructions if it involved her cases, but she was a good detective.
“Got something! And trust me chief, your gonna wanna see this.” Her voice nearly radiated with excitement.
“What is it?” Gordon asked, picking up the files.
“So I looked into the kid, you know, to verify that she is who she says she is.”
“We already did that, Hoffman. Airport security already confirmed. Her name is Marinette Dupain-Cheng, from Paris, France.” Gordan said, putting the file down. He didn’t have time for this.
“Ah, but that’s not her real name.”
That caught his attention. Looking up at her, Gordon tried to see if Hoffman was serous.
“Dupain-Cheng is her adopted name. Her parents, Tom and Sabine, adopted her when she was nine. Before that, Marinette was in multiple foster homes. I mean a ridiculous amount. In the sixteen months she was in the system, that girl was in fifty-six different foster homes. That’s more homes there are weeks in year. Anyway, according to the paperwork, Tom and Sabine couldn’t have kids, and they adopted Marinette because she looked like their niece, who had died in a car accident. And get this, she’s not French. Not by birth. It was an international adoption. And guess where she’s originally from?”
“Then couldn’t she speak English, Hoffman?”
“Think about chief, she was living in France for like seven years. She wouldn’t have had anyone to speak English with and she would’ve needed to learn French. It was the only language she was hearing and speaking for nearly eight years, it must have become her default.” Hoffman said, her hands moving as she explained. “But that’s not all chief, guess from where in America she’s from.”
“Hoffman,” Gordon growled. “I don’t have time for guessing games. If you have something to tell me, spit it out!”
By now, nearly the entire department was listening. Gordon didn’t get angry often, but this new detective was getting on his last nerves on an already stressful day.
“Chief, she’s one of ours.”
“She’s Gotham’s kid.”
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
“I swear, if you don’t get out of my way right now, I will kill you! NOW. LET. ME. GO!”
It wasn’t the threat that caused the family to pause. No, they received death threats everyday. Nothing new there. It was the pure rage, desperation, and panic that radiated off Jason that caused them to hesitate. They had never seen him like this. Sure, they had seen him angry, they had even seen him worried. But they had never seen him panicked. Ever. No one, that is, except for Alfred. As he watched the young man yell and threaten his family, his brothers, Alfred was reminded of the one time Jason had displayed that same amount of panic.
It had been three weeks since the boy had been in the hospital. Three weeks since Master Bruce had found him in that ally beaten half to death. Three weeks since he had been in the coma. Alfred had been coming in faithfully for those 24 days like clockwork. He would arrive precisely at nine and leave when visiting hours where over. Bruce would occasionally come for an hour or two and Dick had dropped in once or twice, but most days it was just Alfred. Most days he would just sit in the room and read. Nothing changed for three, long weeks.
It was around 4:00 p.m. on day 24 that the boy woke. The subtle shifting was Alfred’s first indication that he was waking up. The soft groan that followed almost made the old man smile. If the boy was feeling pain, then that was a good sign. It meant he was healing. The boy forced his eyes open and for the first time, Alfred looked into the blue eyes of the newest member of the Wayne family.
The boy blinked a slowly a few time, carefully shifting in the bed to scan his surrounding, muttering something that sounded like ‘Nettie’. Confusion flashed across his face as he surveyed the hospital room before landing on Alfred. For a moment, Alfred let the boy just look at him, giving him a chance to collect himself before speaking. But he never got a chance to.
In a split second, the boy’s eyes went from clouded with confusion to recollection. Alfred watched as the boy’s eyes grew impossibly wide as panic leaped in.
“NETTIE! WHERE’S NETTIE?” the volume of the question was more on tune with a scream then a shout as the boy shot up from his position, fully intending on leaving the bed.
“Sir, you need to calm down. You’re in no condition to be walking.” Alfred stated, rushing forward to prevent the boy from getting up.
“NO! NO! I HAVE TO FIND NETTIE! SHE’S OUT THERE AND SHE WOULDN’T RUN! SHE WOULDN’T RUN AND THEY WERE GONNA HURT HER!”
The shouting caught the attention of the staff. Nurses and one of the doctor’s came running in a panic. They were greeted with the sight of the comma boy wide awake desperately trying to get out of bed, while his temporary guardian was trying to hold him down.
“Kid, listen. You need to calm down. You just woke up from a comma. You’re still healing.” One of the nurses said, rushing to help hold the boy down.
“NO, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND! I HAVE TO FIND NETTIE! SHE’S OUT THERE ALONE AND I NEED TO FIND HER! I HAVE TO FIND PIXIE! I NEED TO FIND MY SISTER! NOW! LET! ME! GO!” He ordered, the panic giving him enough strength to throw the nurse and Alfred off him and into the wall.
The doctor used that momentary distraction to his full advantage. Moving faster then the boy, the doctor injected a sedative into his body. The thrashing he was doing speed up the reaction as his body started to relax.
“No, please. I have to find her. She needs me. She needs me!” The boy said, his voice cracking as tears made their way down his face. “. … I need her.” he whispered the last part before his body relaxed. Forcing him into a state of forgetfulness.
As the medical staff buzzed around the boy, Alfred just looked at him. The boy may be asleep, but he wasn’t forgetting. The whimpers proved that. He wouldn’t be forgetting any time soon.
“Jason, we are not going to let you go out to do god knows what until you tell us what is going on.” Master Bruce’s voice snapped Alfred out of his memory. “And I think a good place to start is how you know that girl.”
“Yeah, its not like you’ve cared about accident victims before.”
“Or anyone for that matter.”
The last statement was from Damian, who had said it in an attempt to snap whatever state of panic his brother was in. Though he may not admit it, he was concerned for his older brother. Panicked was not something Jason ever was, and it honestly scared the youngest. He knew that it would snap him out of panic, but no one was ready for what it snapped Jason into.
Jason’s eyes flashed from panicked blue to almost murderous. If looks could kill, then the family would have been turned to ash. Everyone, including Bruce, fought the urge to step back. Jason never was one to keep his tempter in check, and the family had seen many explosive episode, but none prepared them for what they were seeing. To see Jason go from laughing, to panicked, to looking ready to murder them, in under the course of a few minutes, was terrifying.
“How do I know her? Why do I care?” he hissed, his mouth pulling back into a snarl, eyes flashing dangerously. “She’s my f*cking sister! That’s how I know her!” He yelled, his words echoing off the walls of the manor.
“I thought … I thought she was dead for seven years. Seven! Then I see her on the news after almost getting killed by that frecking driver looking like someone’s been beating her! So get the hell out of my way!” he shouted, his voice hitching slightly at the mention of her injuries.
“Jason, think rationally for a moment. It’s late. Even if she still was at the station, they wouldn’t let you in. They would be monitoring everyone who’d go see her. Only her legal guardians could, even then, they would be under scrutiny because of the state she’s in. If you go down there like this, with no form of prof of your claim, they could very well arrest you under suspicion of abuse.” Bruce said, physically putting himself between Jason and the door. He spoke low, logical. It wasn’t quite his Batman voice. No. But it worked better.
For a few, very long seconds, the two men stared at each other, neither breaking contact. Both tense, ready to fight. Jason’s fists shook with pent up energy, his entire body taunt. The silence stretched from seconds to a minute, with no one daring to move.
“ … you have a sister?” Dick finally asked, breaking the tense silence with the question everyone had.
“Nettie. My little Nettie.” The confirmation came almost without thinking, Jason’s eyes never leaving Bruce. “She was always so tiny. No matter how much I tried to feed her, she never grew. We were both convinced she had some pixie blood that prevented her from growing. But what she lacked in size, she made up for in heart. Tch, her heart was always too big, ‘specially when I first met her.”
“You look cold.”
The tiny voice startled Jason. He almost thought he had imagined it as it seemed to blend in with the wind. Looking up, he found an incredibly tiny two-year-old girl staring at him, wide blue eyes blinking slowly. The kid’s face was red from the cold as the bitter February wind tore through the streets of Gotham.
“What?” He hadn’t meant to ask that. It just slipped out.
“I said you look cold.” The tiny fairy said, waiting for an answer.
“That’s because I am cold.” Jason growled. He didn’t have the time or the patience to talk with this kid. He was trying to stay warm. He had gotten kicked out of his last place and he hadn’t been able to find a new one to hole up in. He didn’t want to spend time talking with an over curious kid.
A tug on his sleeve brought his eyes back to the girl. She was tugging on his coat sleeves, trying to pull him up. While she obviously couldn’t, Jason was a little impressed at the strength she did seem to have.
“What are you doing?” he asked, his brows scrunching together at the girl’s actions.
“Well, you said that cold so I’m taking you to my house. It’s not very warm, but warmer then out here.” She grunted, still trying to pull Jason to his feet.
“Thanks kid, but I don’t think your parents would be too happy with that.” He explained, gently pulling his hand out of hers. She seemed sweet. And caring.
“Oh, I don’t have parent’s, so they wont mind. An’ I have blankets an’ some food an’ you can stay with me.” She said, a cheer in her tone that caught Jason by surprise. This girl, this two-year-old was on her own and offering him, a total stranger, to stay with her.
“Kid, didn’t anyone tell you not to talk to strangers? And how old are you?”
“I’m five. An’ yeah, I’ve been told not to talk to strangers. But you’re nice. You won’t hurt me.”
“Really, and makes you think that?” Jason asked, momentarily ignoring the question of why a five-year-old looked so small, and focusing on why she thought he was safe. Her answer surprised him.
“Yup. You have good eyes. You … care even if you don’t show it. You’ve been hurt before, but you still care what happens to other people. And you don’t always follow the rules, but you do what you think is best. You do what you have to do. You’re good.”
That answer shocked Jason. This little girl. This tiny, pixie like five-year-old, was telling him that he was good, that he was worth something. She was too trusting. Too soft. Something tugged at his heart at the thought of someone taking advantage of her.
“Alright you pixie, I’ll come with you. But just for tonight.” The words were out of his mouth before he could even register what he was saying. The smile she sent him seemed to make the air a little warmer, but it fell after a moment.
“I’m not a pixie, though. Pixie’s are pretty, and nice, and magical, and I’m not.”
Seeing how she seemed to shrink into herself, Jason felt that tug again. Smiling, he knelt beside her, gently guiding her chin up to meet his eyes.
“I wouldn’t be too sure about that. You’re tiny, just like one, you have the most uniquely beautiful blue eyes. And you seem pretty magical to me. You where able to tell I was a good guy just by looking at my eyes. And you’re offering me a place to stay, and that’s really nice. So yeah, I think you’re my pixie.”
For the longest time, the girl just stood there looking at Jason, as if trying to see if he was telling the truth. Finally, that same, heart warming smile made its way back on her face.
“I … I guess you’re right. But if I’m your pixie, can you be my big brother?”
‘Big brother?’ Those word caused something to tighten in his chest. He didn’t know how to be one. He had no idea how to care for someone younger. He wasn’t exactly the safest person to be around. He was in trouble more often then not. But … she didn’t have anyone to look after her. And she was too trusting. She needed someone to look after her. He couldn’t just leave her after everything he just said. The coil in his chest just tightened, agreeing with everything his mind thought of. Glancing at her, he found her looking at him with so much hope shining in those eyes, that he knew there could only be one answer.
“As long as I get your name, pixie-pop.”
“Marinette, but everyone calls me Nettie. What’s your name?”
The smile that she gave him sealed the deal. He was going to be her big brother. He was going to protect His pixie.
“Well then Nettie, lead the way.”
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
In all his years of service, Gordon had never met someone as infuriating as this woman. When they had finally gotten in contact with Marinette’s teacher, Gordon expected them to at the very least sound concerned. Maybe a little worried. This was Gotham. Gotham! And they had lost one of their students. That would be reason for anyone to panic. But this … this woman barley batted an eye. She didn’t even come down to the station as soon as she got called, and when she did show, she brought what looked like her entire class.
“Let me get this straight. Marinette, got into a fight with one of your other student. She destroyed said student’s property and was about to get physical with her. So the rest of the class defended said student, which resulted in Marinette’s injuries. After that fact, she ran, nearly got hit by a truck, and ended up here. Is that what you’re saying?” Gordon asked, forcing his tone to remain professional. The teacher, Bustier, nodded, opening her mouth to say something, but Gordon cut her off. “And you saw this happen and did nothing?”
The teacher seemed a little taken back by the question, no, the accusation. Her face quickly becoming annoyed.
“I was at the front desk at the time, fixing some last minute changes. I heard the commotion, but when I got there, Marinette was already gone. The entire class described what happened, and their stories collaborated. Marinette has a … tendency to draw attention to herself. She’s disappeared multiple times on numerous trips. This is just another case of that.” She informed him, and Gordon caught the underlying sharp edge to her tone.
“And you didn’t think of reporting it? Ma’am, this is Gotham. I don’t even what to think what could have happened if we didn’t find her.” Gordon asked, his voice rising minutely. ‘You would’ve had a casualty on your hands,’ was unsaid but everyone in the station heard it. At least the personal did.
“Of course I reported it, I’m not inept. As soon as I learned what happened, I reported it to the school, like always. But as I said, Marinette had done this before and I couldn’t leave my other students alone. Hopefully this will teacher her not to run away.” Bustier said. “Now, I want to get my students back to the hotel. So if you could get Marinette for me, we’ll be on our way. And if you have any more questions, talk to the embassy.”
“… Officer Hill will come by with the paper work you need to sign for Marinette’s release. I’ll get her and you can pick up her items at the front desk.” Gordon said, his tone dropping in temperature as he rose, motioning Hill over.
He had wanted to question that teacher more, but she pulled the embassy card. She knew her rights and she wasn’t afraid to use them, and that didn’t sit right. If things happened the way she said, then she would have never pulled that card. No one in the class bore any signs of bullying. They all had been chatting rather loudly in French, so he couldn’t quiet understand what they were saying, but he did get a sense of self-righteousness. He did not like it.
Halting in front of the door, Gordon took a few, deep, calming breaths. The last thing he needed was for Marinette to see him riled. Opening the door, he was greeted with the sight of Marinette trying to teach Spencer proper techniques of drawing. Though most of the papers surround the duo were of very badly drawn stickmen. But she was smiling, looking more content then Gordon had seen her all day, chattering away softly in French. The sight brought a bitter smile to his face. This kid didn’t deserve anything that was happening to her. He just prayed that they could find a loophole for them to investigate. They just needed that loophole.
“Marinette, your teacher’s here to take you back.”
As Gordon spoke, he watched her closely, looking for any signs of anything. The small curl of her shoulders, the slow darkening of her blue eyes as the happiness was replaced by resignation, the way she seemed to shut herself off. Gordon knew it had something to do with the teacher or the class and he felt bile rise at the thought of turning this sweet little girl over to them. But at the moment, his hands were tied.
She slowly rose, arranging the papers and putting them into neat piles, obviously staling for time. Before they left the room, Gordon gently put his hand on her shoulder, catching her attention. He felt his heart constrict at the sight of her large eyes looking up at him questioningly, her one red eye fanning his growing anger. Rummaging through his pockets, Gordon pulled out a card, handing it to her.
“Marinette, listen. If you are in any trouble, or you don’t feel safe, or if anything happens, call this number. Call this number and I will get there as fast as I can. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, ok. Just promise me you’ll call. Ok?” Gordon spoke slowly, giving Spencer time to translate without rushing.
Marinette went to grab the offered card, only to pull her hand up short, hesitation shining in her eyes. Gordon didn’t push it on her, he just continued to hold it out to her, silently offering the lifeline. Her eyes searching his, looking for something. After a few moments, she seemed to find it. Taking the card, she slipped it into her pocket, hiding it from the world. Smiling at her, Gordon turned to lead her out, but was stopped by a small tug on his sleeve. Turning around, he found Marinette gripping his cuff, her eyes glued to the ground.
“Thank you.” She whispered in flawless English, her voice carrying the familiar Gotham accent. So she hadn’t lost it after all.
“Marinette, I want you to know that we, that I’m on your side. Alright. I’ll believe you.” Gordon assured her, giving her an encouraging smile. The next thing he knew, he had his arms full again. The hug was quick, like she was afraid of crossing a line. When she pulled away, Gordon watched as she took a shaky breath before giving a swift nod. Leading her back to the main office, he gave her shoulder one last squeeze of comfort before they came into view of her classmate’s.
As soon as they entered the room, the chatter ceased. Most of the officers knew of her injuries, but hadn’t actually seen the extent of them. When the class finally saw her, Gordon couldn’t quiet tell what they were thinking. Whatever it was, was quickly discussed on French. He heard Marinette’s name mentions multiple times, but it didn’t appear like they were addressing her. When her teacher caught a look at Marinette, her face went sour. Rapid fire French flew out of Bustier, though none of seemed out of concern. It sounded disappointed, like she was reprimanding her. The more she talked, the more Marinette seemed to shrink, her eyes never leaving the ground.
Gordon caught Spencer’s eyes, who had come in behind them, and they flashed in shock before turning angry. Silencing Spencer before he could speak, Gordon shook his head, signaling they would talk later.
“Ms. Bustier, it’s late and I believe you said you wanted to get you class back to the hotel.” Gordon stated, pulling the red haired teacher’s attention away from Marinette for the time being.
“I did, thank you. Marinette, go get your things. Everyone else, head out and wait by the bus.” She ordered, corralling the other students outside, leaving Marinette in the station to gather what little belongings she had from the front. As she was leaving, Gordon called out one last time.
Turning, she met Gordon’s eyes for the last time that night. The contrast of the blue and red created a haunting picture.
“Stay safe, kid.”
A small smile light up her face as she nodded. Waving to all the personal in the office, Marinette disappeared through the GCPD doors, but somehow, everyone felt that wouldn’t be the last time they saw her enter or exit through those door.
“Why didn’t let me say anything?”
Spencer’s question came before the doors finished closing behind her.
“They all assumed we couldn’t understand French. That would have caused them to be more loose with what they said. Now what did they say?”
“… I couldn’t quiet hear what her classmates where saying it was too quiet. But what I could make out was them saying that the bruising suited her and she doing it for attention and they should have done more. And the teacher, she was saying that she expected more from Marinette. That she was setting a bad example for the rest of the class. That she needed to apologize to ‘Lila’ and that she would be informing her parents.” Spencer said, one hand making gestures while the other was running through his hair.
“Hmm. Hill, call GNN. Tell them they can run the story. Videos included, just no names.”
“Marinette’s from Gotham. Somebody is bound to know her. If we can find someone who does …”
“We may just find our loophole.”
“Exactly. Jackson, I need you to pull up everything you can on her, especially the adoption papers. Find something we can use. Clauses, conditions, something that was neglected in the signing. Anything. Hoffman, I want you trailing her. Be discreate. Don’t let yourself be seen.”
“Chief, you can’t be serous? Hoffman’s still a rookie.”
“She’s also one of the best we got. They might notice one of you hanging around. Hoffman’s the least conspicuous out of the bunch.” Gordon explained. “And Spencer, I want a full report on everything you heard and get a social worker in here to look at those drawings. There might be a clue in them.”
“Chief, why are you doing all this? Not that what you’re doing isn’t good, but, you could get into serous trouble for this. I mean, you very well could be risking your carrier for this. Why?”
“Like you said Hoffman, she’s one of ours. And Gotham protects its own.”
Jason was never one to be easily convinced of something, once he got an idea into his mind, there was little chance of changing it. Another thing about him was that when he cared for someone, he gave them everything. When he’s mother died, he had felt so lost. He knew there wasn’t much he could have done to help her, but that didn’t make him feel any less guilty. He always felt that if he had done something more, something different, then maybe his mom would still be here. He had been ready to swear off any more attachments. Then, he met Nettie. Sweet, tiny, caring Nettie who had a heart of gold far too big for her and far, far, too bright for Gotham. While he loved his mother, it was nothing compared to what he felt for Nettie. The feeling he had for his mother was that of any son, but with Nettie it was so much stronger. The love he had for his mother was born of blood. With Pixie, it was born from survival. She had found him at his lowest and shown him that there was still light out there. That he still had a reason for living. Losing his mother broke him. Losing Nettie nearly destroyed him. The only thing that kept him alive was the promise of getting those who took his ray of light away. That’s what fueled him as he fought as Robin. Thoughts of his little pixie are what spurred him on through those bleak nights of silence. It’s what drove him to take on the mantle of Red Hood. He lived to keep her memory alive.
After Nettie, Jason never let himself get close to anyone. He refused to talk about it, and the rest of the family never asked about his past. Jason spent countless nights unable to sleep. Memories of Nettie’s laughter, her smile played, over and over again, haunting him. Remembering how her face would scrunch up whenever she was frustrated, or how her tongue would stick out when she was concentrating. Little details he had never notice before. How her hugs felt like coming home. Her eyes shining with a hope and light that Jason never had or know until he met her.
The first time he ever mentioned her was when the name Pixie-pop came up in a discussion between Bruce, Dick, and Tim. To this day Jason could not remember what they were originally discussing, all he could remember was Dick making an off-hand comment of someone being pixie-like and Tim suggesting the name Pixie-pop. He couldn’t remember what he had said or what he had done, but both of them were walking around for weeks with black-eyes and a few broken ribs. It was the first time Jason had really lost control. It was then the Batfam started to notice the tiny things that set Jason off, and they learned to avoid them at all costs.
It had taken years for Jason to come to terms with Nettie’s ‘disappearance’. He had begun to accept that she was dead. And then his world had shattered again when he saw her on the tv. Her face swollen, eyes dilated with panic, scared out of her mind, and Alive. Very, very much alive.
He had nearly ignored Bruce, he had done it before so why not now. He didn’t care how it would look, he was going to the station and he was getting his sister back! He would have, except for that little voice telling him Bruce may have a point. If he went in there guns blazing, he could very well scare his Nettie. He definitely wouldn’t be helping her if he was arrested. He would wait until morning, then he would go to the station. He was going to bring her back tomorrow. He was going to bring her home.
Jason didn’t sleep that night. Instead, for the first time in over two years, he dug an old shoe box out from the top shelf of his closet. It was covered in layers of dust that blow up in his face as he dusted it off. Inside was filled with odd sorts of nick-knacks. Most of it looked like something a child would collect. Moving aside a few shiny rocks, polished pieces of glass, a rather large collection of keys, Jason pulled out an old copy of Alice in Wonderland. Upon opening it, old, faded drawings fell out along with a photo, and a ribbon. The drawings, faded and wrinkled as they were, clearly showed very well drawn stick people holding hands with a house and trees behind them. Scrawled above them where the words ‘Jason and Marinette Todd’ Tears pooled in Jason’s eyes as he let out a shuttering breath before turning his attention to the photo.
It was a standard photo booth shot, with four frames. In the first on was a sweet picture of fifteen-year-old Jason with a tiny Asian girl sitting in his lap with the biggest grins on their faces. The next was of the two of them making silly faces. The third was of the girl looking up at younger Jason with him looking down on her with sweet smiles in place. The last one was of the girl placing a kiss on his cheek. Scribbled on the back was ‘December 25, 2010’. The more he looked at the picture, the more his shoulders began to shake.
Dropping the picture before he damaged it, Jason grasped the old, frayed red ribbon. The silk feeling far too soft in his callused hands. A tight, choked sob left the boy as the tears that he had been hold trickled down his face
“I’m gonna bring you home, Nettie. I swear. I’m gonna bring you home and no one’s gonna hurt you ever again.”
For the first time since he was sixteen, Jason cried himself to sleep.
My computer's fixed! Huzzah! After two weeks of it being broken, I can now work on my stories.
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
Marinette hesitated outside the classroom door. The sound of happy chattering and laughter filtered through the open door, begging Marinette to come join. But she didn’t want to go in. Lila was in there. Lila had been there for a day without Marinette. She had been spreading her lies to the new class who would be eating out of her hand. They would jeer at her, ignore her, hurt her. Marinette started to turn around, intending to hid out in the school’s library, in a back corner where no one could find her and just draw, when she felt a gentle nudge on her thigh. Glancing down, Marinette got caught up in Tikki’s gaze. Concern, worry, love, understanding, and encouragement as seemed to shine in them, all in a pool of support. Tikki didn’t say anything, there was nothing that she could say. All she did was give her chosen a slow nod of encouragement, hold her gaze until Marinette nodded back.
Squaring her shoulder, Marintte took a deep breath, entered the room, and froze. One of the other student’s had seconds before shouted something, pointing at something in the front of the room . Over three dozen sets of eyes followed the gesture, all of them ended up landing on Marinette. For a few long tense seconds, no one did anything and Marinette fought the overwhelming urge to turn tail and run. She watched as their expressions shifted from amused, to confused, to shock, and finally … recognition? Marinette felt more then saw them stare at her face, more specifically, her bruising and eye. She had been rushed at the hotel again this morning, slept through all her alarms and would have slept longer if Ms. Bustier hadn’t sent Alix up. Whether it was because of what happened yesterday or not, was still to be answered. Though due to the late wake-up call, Marinette barely had enough time to slip into the uniform she was provided with before running down to catch to bus. She hadn’t been able to put on any make-up and she had no idea how bad the bruising had become. All she knew was that her whole face was hurting, and she knew her eye was still red. The doctor had said it would take a couple weeks for the colour to return to normal.
“Oh my gosh, you’re the girl from the news.” One of the boys said, breaking the silence.
This caused more confusion for Marinette before it quickly turning to horror. She had been on the news. Everyone saw her almost getting killed by a truck. Her panic attack, her face, everything. They knew, Everyone knew.
Her panic must have shown, just as she was about to bolt, the boy who had first been talking interrupted her.
“Hey, are you ok? What am I saying? Of course your not ok. What I meant was do you think you should be coming to school? I mean, yesterday looked pretty intense and, and traumatic and shouldn’t you be resting? Do you want to go to the nurse? I’m sure that Mr. Spinale will give you some free days. And . . “
“Claude, please allow the girl time to breath. Unless Ms. Marinette is severely ill, she must attend classes or she …” another voice, Mr. Spinale, said, walking in. He turned to address her, but pulled up short. “My God, what happened?”
As those words left Mr. Spinale, the entire class, mostly the real class, erupted in not quiet whispers. Mostly on the fact that Mr. Spinale swore. He never swore, and heaven help anyone who he caught using ‘vulgar language.’ But as the information filtered through their minds, they seemed to catch onto the fact that he called her by name. By the last name of the student that wasn’t in class yesterday due to being sick, according to her teacher.
“I … I … I …” Marinette stammered, trying to formulate an answer. But she was saved from answering when Mr. Spinale turned abruptly to Ms. Bustier.
“I thought you she was at your hotel yesterday, ill.” He asked, his tone dropping into the danger zone. He didn’t bother waiting for an answer before cutting her off. “If that is so, then explain what happened to her.” The order wasn’t veiled in the slightest.
“She was, at least that’s what I had thought. She left, and you saw the news. I had to pick her up from the station. She must have run into trouble and panicked. I didn’t find out until much later that she had left the hotel. At least now Marinette, and everyone else, will think twice before running off.” Ms. Bustier said, her voice sounding exasperated. ‘So that’s the excuse that she used.’ Marinette had vagally wondered how Ms. Bustier explained her absence, that is, if anyone had asked.
“Did you have any medical treatment, Miss?” He had turned so abruptly back to her, that Marinette automatically braced for a blow. She didn’t notice the spark of anger flare in Mr. Spinale’s gray eyes nor the flash of understanding and anger in Claude’s. Relaxing after a second, Marinette hid her embarrassment and pushed back the lump that formed in her throat.
“Y-yes. They had a doctor come look at me at the station. They said I was going to be fine.” Marinette said, her voice faltering slightly.
Mr. Spinale was quiet for a moment before turning to his desk. Rummaging through one of the drawers, he pulled out a stack of paper. Quickly signing two, he tore one off before offering it to Marinette.
“It’s a hall pass. I want you to go visit the nurse. I know you said you already had it looked at, but I would feel better if the nurse had a look at it. That way she can gauge how well your healing. She could also give you something for the pain. Claude, you go with her.” He said, fully ignoring Ms. Bustier who made a move to protest.
Claude didn’t hesitate. Once the slip was in his hands, he grabbed Marinette’s hand and dragged her out of the classroom. He held it loose, giving her to choice to pull back. Claude didn’t say much while they walked, in fact he didn’t say anything at all. His face was grim. Marinette thought it almost looked angry. The only time he spoke was when the nurse, a young man in his mid-twenties, demand to know what happened. As the nurse, Mark, was assessing her, Marinette couldn’t help but notice how he kept glancing at Claude, who was just leaning against the office wall, silently watching them. Mark quickly distracted her with question of her medical history for her school files. She gave him as much as the could remember, starting from when she was put in the system. There were a few notable hospital visits, but if he notice, Mark chose not to say anything. He just wrote her information down. By the time he had finished assessing her, taking her history, and given her something for the pain, nearly two hours had passed.
“Marinette, if you need anything else, just drop by.” Mark informed her, giving both of them notes before sending them back to class.
“Why did you come to school today?” Claude’s question caught her off guard. It was the first time he had spoken to her since Mr. Spinale had interrupted him. Turning to look at him, Marinette met his gray eyes, her right eye throbbing slightly.
“… I … needed a sense of normality. Some … semblance of routine.” Marinette said honestly, her voice wavering slightly.
Claude didn’t respond, He just nodded in understanding before opening the door. Mr. Spinale briefly glanced at them from his lecture, nodding once before continuing. Marinette scurried to the back of the room, into the far corner as far away from everyone as possible. She needed to be alone. Shuffling beside her caused Marinette to panic. Glancing to her left, she found Claude sliding into the seat beside her, putting a barricade between Marinette and her class.
“I always wanted to see what it was like back here.” He whispered with a shrug, turning his attention back to Mr. Spinale. Though his attention was on his teacher, he did catch the small, grateful smile Marinette gave him.
Class ended far too quickly for Marinette’s liking. As long as she was in class, Lila couldn’t bother her. She had some sense of safety in the room. But now, she had two hours of free time. Two hours of trying to avoid her classmates. Claude made her promise to wait on at the front of the school for him. He had to grab some friends and they were going to head to a small café across from the school. He claimed they had the best sandwiches.
She had only been waiting on the steps for five minutes when her class came out, Lila in the center.
“Oh, Marinette. What are you doing? Waiting for someone to take pity on you.” Alya sneered
“With a face like that, pity will be the only thing anyone would have for her. Though I must say, your new look suits you. The swelling really added to your face. And the bruising pulled together that beaten puppy look.” Lila commented, her voice light, almost friendly sounding to those who where listening. “Mind you, what can we expect from a chink.”
“Biǎo zi” The word was out of her mouth before Marinette even knew it was there. She hadn’t meant to say it, but she couldn’t feel bad about it, not after what Lila called her.
“What did you say?” Lila growled, eyes flashing in anger. Alya and the rest of the class, glared at Marinette with anger, they knew it was an insult, they just didn’t know what it meant. Adrien, well, Adrien stared at her like she had summoned a demon from the depth of hell.
“Biǎo zi” Marinette repeated herself, offering no translation. There was no way she was going to tell them she had called Lila a bitch. She had panicked and her mouth had moved on its own, but they wouldn’t listen to that. Lila wouldn’t hit her here, would she? There would be too many people. They wouldn’t attack her again. They wouldn’t, would they?
They were drawing a small crowd, many of them looking skeptical at the French class. But no one was sure how to intervene. Lila opened her mouth but whatever she was going to say was cut off.
Freezing, Marinette’s mind brought her back to the last time she had heard someone call her that. Same voice. Same desperate tone. Turning, Marinette’s gaze locked with a 23-year-old man at the bottom of the stairs. First thing she notice was that he was tall. He stood about 6’2”, well built, and his whole vibe eluded to danger. Black messy hair with a streak of white along the front fell in a carefree, messy way. But it was the eyes she recognized. Those green-blue eyes that she remembered would sparkle with laughter and grow soft and cloudy when she cried. Eyes that promised safety and love. Eyes that could only belong to one person.
“Jay-Jay?” Marinette whispered, her voice so quiet she was sure that he couldn’t have heard her, but the way his eyes light up told her otherwise. “JAY-JAY!”
Leaping off the top of the stairs, Marinette collided with him. Catching her, Jason stumbled back down the stair, clutching her tiny body close. The sob that left her shook her entire frame as she gripped him. Afraid that she was only dreaming. That he wasn’t there. She had seen the blood. She had been there. He wouldn’t wake up. He hadn’t woken up. There had been so much blood.
“Nettie, Nettie! Oh God, please tell my you’re real! Please tell me your real! I’m so sorry Nettie! I’m so sorry! I tried … I tried so hard to find you after … after … but I couldn’t and I thought … I thought …” Jason said, before breaking. Burying his face into her hair, Jason let go of the dam, crushing Marinette in a desperate hug as the tears fell. Both their legs gave way as they sank to the pavement, clutching each other, too afraid to let go.
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
Gordon should have paid better attention to the signs. If he had, this may not have happened. The station was still noisy and busy, but it was suspiciously quiet in the lobby. No reporters or random civilians in sight. That in itself should have set off red flags, but for some reason, that fact just didn’t click. He would later blame his inattentiveness to lack of sleep and too much coffee. After spending all night in the office poring over Marinette’s files, Gordon was sure that he alone had consumed well over 7 pots of coffee. He had been awake for nearly 48 hours, running on a little over 3 hours of sleep he had managed to get when he napped on some files.
Hoffman had left on her assignment at 6:00 a.m., but so far hadn’t reported anything in. Which was good and bad. Good in the sense that Marinette was alright, and bad because they where looking for a solid reason to intervene.
Both Spencer and Jackson had given Gordon the files he had requested, though Jackson was still gathering information. Spencer had provided Gordon with a 30+ page dictation of everything that he and Marinette had talked about, what the doctor had said when she visited, and what the teacher and class had said. Reading what those plain clothed villains said was enough to make Gordon’s blood boil.
“Oh my gosh, look at Marinette’s face!”
“Wow Als, you got a good swing.”
“Yeah, I think I made an improvement. Though to eye looks really creepy.”
“No kidding, Marinette looks like a freak!”
“She was already messed up inside, and now she’s just as messed up on the outside.”
“Do you guys think we should’ve done more, I mean after what she did to Lila I think that letting her off with that small bruise isn’t enough.”
“Are you kidding, Marinette isn’t getting off that easy. The next time we do it, it’s gonna be fun.”
“Oh, you guys are so sweet to stand up for me. I just feel bad that she caused such a ruckus down here just for attention.”
“Marinette, I expected you to act better then this. You know you’re suppose to set a good example for the class, and instead you do this! You destroy one of your classmates projects, you start a fight, and then you run off! And you have the police call me down here to come get you. The class had plans for this afternoon and we had to cut them short on your account. You need to apologize to Lila and the class right away. Marinette, you need to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around you. I already informed the school of your behaviour and I will be calling your parents, young lady.”
Gordon hadn’t realized how anger just thinking of that transcript made him until his mug off coffee shattered when he slammed it on his desk. Gordon knew they had them on verbal abuse, but again, they didn’t have enough to warrant an investigation. If they requested it, the only thing the government would do would be to file it and maybe report it to the French government. And all they could nail on them right now would be verbal bullying.
The social worker was still studying Marinette’s drawings, though they had commented on how halve of them were of clothing designs. Jackson had pulled everything from Marinette’s immediate files, ranging from her adoption papers to every foster home and parent she had for those sixteen month, and he was working on getting her more in-depth files. Gordon had only very briefly skimmed through the stack of files, most of them outlining her life in the system. Though her last I.Q. test score before her adoption had caught his attention. At nine year of age she had scored a 128 on her I.Q. test. That was a very unusually high score. If she was that smart at 9, Gordon wanted to know what she was at now.
The sound of yelling and pounding feet was the only warning Gordon had before his office door was thrown open, nearly getting yanked off its hinges.
“WHERE THE HELL IS MY SISTER?”
A very angry Jason Todd stood in Gordon’s office door, looking ready to tear something apart. Gordon had known the adopted Wayne for years. Barbra was an unofficial member of the family and would share titbits of information. Gordon himself had been over to the Wayne Manor multiple times. He had seen them all in varying stages of anger, but nothing this bad. Jason looked like he hadn’t slept for days. His eyes had taken on the glassy look that someone would have when they had been crying. His hair, which had always been in some form of disarray, appeared both limp and excessively wild.
“I’m sorry chief. I tried to stop him, but he barged in.” Hill said, but neither of them seemed to hear him.
“Jason, I don’t know what your talking about, but I have work to do and I don’t know where your sister is.” Gordon informed him, assuming he was talking about Barbra.
“ THE F*CK YOU DO! YOU SAVED HER! EVERYONE IN GOTHAM SAW YOU!”
Most of the office were now paying the two of them full attention. No one knew what to do, or what was really going on.
“What are you talking about?” Gordon shouted back, his temper far to short from Marinette’s situation and lack of sleep to deal with anyone acting like this.
“I’M TALKING ABOUT NETTIE! MARINETTE! MY SISTER, GORDON!”
Jason hadn’t meant to come in yelling, but that idiot at reception told him that Gordon was busy and wasn’t seeing anyone. He had been arguing with her for nearly an hour before he snapped. Honestly, he was impressed he had lasted that long. Mind you, he had promised Alfred that he would attempt to be civil when he left, but he had his sister to find. Forcing his way past her, Jason ignored any and all attempt to stop him before throwing Gordons office open. The yelling match that resulted was entirely his fault, he wasn’t going to deny it, but he was at the end of rope. He need answers and he needed them now.
Slamming his hand onto Gordons desk, Jason slid the only picture of him and Nettie towards Gordon. Taking the photo, Gordon spent a few long, painful minutes studying the photograph. Jason willed himself to breath, giving Gordon time to study the picture.
“That’s the only picture I have of her. It was taken Christmas of 2010. She was 7 at the time. It … It was her Christmas present to me. She said she wanted me to have something to be able to look at and remember that time by.” Jason said, choking at the last part. Shaking his head, he moved on. “I know you have a program that can scan a person and show you what they would look like in 5-10 years. Use this and I guarantee you that she’ll look the same, minus the swelling.”
Jason watched as Gordon handed the picture off to Hill to scan, before turning back to Jason.
“Jason, assuming what you’re telling me is true, I need you to tell me everything. How you met, I’m assuming that’s what happened because you two look nothing alike. Any distinguishing attributes or marks she has. And how you two got separated. I want to help her as much if not more so then you do, so I need you to answer everything. Do you understand?” Gordon asked, leaning forward as he rested his hands on the desk.
Jason didn’t hesitate before launching into the exact same story of how they met that he told his family. Gordon listened without interrupting, only asking for clarification on some key points.
“And how did you get separated?”
The question, though he knew it was necessary, made him sick at the memory.
“I … I had ripped off the wrong people I guess. They came looking for payment and Nettie was with me. It was dark and I didn’t see them until one of them hit me in the back. One went to grab Nettie, but she’s stronger then she looks, dirty fighter too. I tried to get up, I was gonna help her. I was gonna grab her and run, but then I felt a sharp pain on the back of my head, and … and Nettie screaming. I woke up in the hospital three week later and I couldn’t find her anywhere.” Jason said, giving what was needed, but nothing more. What went on that night was something Jason was determined to keep as little known as possible.
“Ok, that’s good enough for now. But we are going to need more details later. Now do you know of any distinguishing traits or features she has? One that wouldn’t be well known.” Gordon asked.
For a second, Jason froze. He knew of one, of two actually, but he was hesitant to tell Gordon, not sure how he would react. Hell, Jason still didn’t know what to think of it. But is was his best way of proving his story true.
“… She’s got two. Both are behind her right ear. Both are brand marks… One is of two snakes intertwining with each other and the one right bellow it is a symbol. I don’t know what it is. I tried looking it up, but I cant find anything even similar.”
“Someone burned her?”
“I don’t know how it happened. They were there when we met, and she didn’t remember who did them or how they got there.”
“Do you think you can draw it for us?”
“Yeah. I uh, I scanned it on my phone, hold on.” Fishing his phone out of his pocket, Jason turned to back on only to find over two hundred missed messages and 14 missed calls from Damian.
“What the heck?” Jason said, disbelief leaking from him. Demon Spawn never messaged him unless absolutely necessary. Highway Too Hell blared through the station, Damian’s icon illuminating the screen. Regardless of their relationship, Jason knew something had happened to make Demon Spawn call him.
“Oh finally you answer! I’ve been trying to call you the last three hours.” Damian snapped, the sound of school chatter filled the back round.
“Look Damian, I’m in the middle of something right now. If it’s not life threating, it can wait.” Jason growled. Of course the brat would take now of all times to call.
“It’s not, but it is important, I swear. You know the class I was telling you about. About the student that was missing yesterday. Well she’s here.”
“This is what you called me for? To gossip?”
“No, Todd. Listen. The girl’s, Nettie. Pixie-pop!”
Chapter 10: Chapter 10
For years, Jason would have these dreams. Dreams where he would find Nettie, where he would be holding her, only for her to be torn away again. Whether by someone physically tearing her away or her just ‘disappearing’. The worse ones were when she died. The method always changed, but the outcome never did. He would always be forced to watch. Never able to do anything. They were always so real that sometimes, he thought they were. But this, this was real.
Dream Nettie was never this warm. She was never this small. Dream Nettie was never this strong, hugging him as if he was the one that might disappear. She never smelt so ‘Marinette’. Jason had spent years trying to identify her scent, though nothing ever came close. He could never describe it to someone. If he ever had to, he would say it was calm, underlined with something powerful. Something not quite discovered. And that relaxing, intoxicating scent, that no dream could ever fabricate, filled his senses as he nuzzled his sister’s hair. She was real. She was real! Jason wanted to laugh and shout it to the world that she was real. He could hardly wait to show her off to Alfred and everyone! They would love her just as much as he did. If they didn’t, then he and Nettie would leave. Jason had enough money saved to support them for a while. They could get a real apartment and he would make sure Nettie got actual schooling this time, and …
His planning was cut short when he adjusted his arms, his hand lightly brushing the side of her face. The flinch and whimper of pain snapped Jason back. Pulling away, Jason tilted Nettie’s face up and his stomach dropped. The small utopia he was imaging was shattered when he saw her face. It was almost like looking at a prettier version of Two-Face.
The left side of her face was normal, a little pale and thin, but normal. It was Nettie’s right side that turned Jason’s blood into fire. The first thing he noticed was her eye. Her eyes, that were always so large and expressive and bright with that unique bluebell colouring, was maimed. The right eye had turned blood red, only a small section of white remained closer to the bridge of her nose. Her bottom lip, which had always been full, was swollen and he could plainly see where her teeth had gone straight through. The red glare of the hand print screamed at him, as purple bruising bloomed around it and her eye. She looked like two totally different people.
Gently cupping her face, Jason brushed his thumb across the underside of her eye, barely skimming. The slight wince and hitching of breath confirmed just how much pain she was in. Just how hard was she hit? Better yet, who would have the gulls to do something like this to Nettie?
“Nettie, who did this to you?” Jason asked, keeping his voice soft and hands gentle as he cradled her face. He saw the same look filter through her eyes that he had seen in so many other victims: hesitation. Something or someone had dug their claws in so deep, that his pixie was afraid to say what happened. Leaning down, Jason gently touched her forehead with his, just letting sit in that position. Providing them both with comfort from the familiar gesture. “Please tell me who did this to you, Pixie-pop.” Jason prodded again, nearly begging. He needed to know who dared to hurt her. He needed to know who to kill.
For a few heartbeats, Marinette was silent, her large eyes studying him. He held her gaze, trying his hardest to express everything he was feeling into them. She slowly blinked, keeping her eyes closed slightly longer then necessary. Jason could’ve sworn she was going to answer, but then a very annoying voice cut through their bubble.
“What are you doing Marinette? Snuggling up with Gotham’s lowlifes? I hope you’re careful, wouldn’t want you to make a ‘mistake’. Mind you, I guess that would run in the family.”
The sound of the girl’s voice would have been enough to grate on Jason’s nerves on a good day, but today was not a normal day, and that fact alone made it much, much worse. How dare this … this snake insult Nettie like that! The laughter of the other students and how Nettie curled up, shrinking away from their taunts fanned his anger to the breaking point.
Turning his eyes from his sister, Jason cold, anger filled eyes found the group that dared, not only to interrupt them, but to also slander his sisters name. As soon as his fire filled eyes locked onto the group, most of them seemed to freeze. Many of them had the sense to look afraid. Anyone in their right mind would, but some of them apparently didn’t. The snake included.
One look was all it took for Jason to know she was a manipulator, and in this instance, a threat. Her skin was darker, tanned to perfection. She had sickly olive green eyes, hooded by blunt bangs. Two short ponytails fell on both sides of her face and the rest of her hair was pulled back into a long, low ponytail. She was queen of her class and she knew it. Her eyes held so much malice and anger and a sick sense of satisfaction as she continued to bad mouth Nettie to the red head beside her.
“What did you just say?” Jason growled, tucking Nettie closer to himself.
The anger radiating off his voice caused the rest of the student body, which were all trying to disappear into the back-round, to freeze and watch the drama unfolding in a morbid fascination. They all knew who Jason was and while they didn’t know the black-haired beauty with him, they knew she was someone special. And no one messed with someone Jason Todd-Wayne deemed as his. It always ended badly for the other person.
The girl, hearing him, turned with the beginnings of a sneer on her face.
“I’m sorry, what was that? Unlike some people, I don’t speak criminal.” She said, her eyes glancing at Nettie, who had curled up tighter into Jason’s chest.
‘She’s f*cked’, was the only thought of every student who understood French. Those who didn’t know could only guess what she had said to make the others grow that pale and Jason that angry. Everyone could feel the kill intent coming off the young adopted Wayne, and they all took a step back. The snake seemed to feel it too. Her eyes widened with uneasiness. Her next words stuck in her throat.
Jason’s blood was on fire. She called him a criminal. The very people Jason spent countless nights stopping. Now, he might, might have let it slide, but she had called his Pixie-pop a hooker! And she was gonna pay for that.
“Takes one to know one.” Jason hissed, eyes flashing dangerously.
Everyone, especially the snake and her group, were shocked and a little unsettled that Jason understood and spoke French. What were the chances of a guy that dressed in leather jackets, ripped jeans, and combat boots would be able to know French? Before the girl could attempt to flounder with a comeback, Jason cut her off.
“If you think you can get away with call me a criminal, fine.”
“But if your stupid enough to think …”
“That you can call Nettie a hooker Or a mistake and get away with it …”
Nettie shouted over his, her voice sounding so desperate, cut Jason off his tirade.
“ …Just, let it go. Please?”
“NO! Please, let it go. Please, Jay-Jay, let it go.” Nettie begged, pulling her face slightly away from his chest. The desperation in her face and the fear in her eyes made Jason clamp down on his anger. He remembered the last time he had seen her scared, the last time he heard her beg. And he never wanted to see her do that again. He would stop. For now. But right now, he needed to get her away from all the prying eyes.
Not sparing their spectators a glance, Jason scooped up Nettie. The squeak and smile that left her was worth the adorable glare she sent him.
“Jay-Jay, what are you doing?” Nettie asked, squirming in his arms. For a moment, Jason was brought back to when he would carry tiny her to bed when she insisted she wasn’t tired. Smiling at the memory, he just adjusted his hold on her so she would be more comfortable.
“We’re getting outta here, kiddo.”
“I, I can’t just leave, Jason. I have school, classes … my teacher.” The last part was whispered so quietly that Jason almost didn’t catch it. The way she said it was like she was expecting repercussions.
Pushing that thought to the back corner, Jason turned his head slightly, catching sight of Damian. Their eyes locked for a few moments, and a message passed between the two brothers. A faint nod from Damian was all Jason needed to know that he would have his back. Looking back down at his sister, Jason smiled.
“Don’t worry. Everything will be ok.” He said softly, placing a feather light kiss on her forehead.
Striding over to his bike, Jason only put Nettie down to strap his helmet on her. The feeling of protectiveness washed over him again just by seeing her wearing his helmet. It wasn’t a possessive feeling. Far from it. It was more like what a knight would feel when the princess he was protecting wore his colours. It was a sense of pride, and loyalty, and the overwhelming desire to protect. Putting her on the front of the bike, Jason climbed on behind her, wrapping her in a protective cage.
“Where are we going, Jay-Jay?” Nettie asked as Jason started the engine. The roar startling the gawking students, causing Jason to smirk. Before taking off, Jason shot the snake’s group one last glare, flashing the middle finger at them over Nettie’s head.
“We’re going home, Nettie.” He whispered, before tearing off, the sound of screeching tires filling the air.
Chapter 11: Chapter 11
The silence that followed the duo’s departure was almost amusing. Everyone, including some of the teachers who had come out to investigate the noise, were still in shock trying to process what they had witnessed. Damian could feel his amusement grow. The French class had no idea what they had unleashed. It was one thing to lie about a Wayne, but it was another to insult one, official or not. And Damian had a suspicion that Marinette was going to become an official part of the family, sooner rather then later. Another thing he knew was that Todd was no where near done with the Italian, and he was looking forward to the show.
“… Did that just happen?”
Claude’s question seemed to echo through the crowd. Everyone looked at each other before slowly turned to look at the French class. The silence lasted for all of 30 seconds before the student body exploded. The Gotham students who had understood French where trying to explain what had happened to the rest of them, while the French class was torn between comforting the crying Italian and talking about Marinette and the ‘weird guy with white hair’.
“That it did. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have damage control.” Damian said, turning to leave before pausing. “Claude, thank you for helping her.” He added, leaving a chocking Claude and even more freaked out student behind.
He hadn’t gotten far when the liar’s voice broke through the crowd.
“I, I was j-j-just trying t-t-to w-w-warn her.” She cried. The red head from before was back to comforting the girl, assuring her that Marinette was in the wrong and the ‘Lila was too nice to her’. But what really caught Damian’s attention was when some of the class, he did bother to remember their names and barely spared them much thought, said that if Marinette got hurt, then it would be her own fault. After all, that guy looked like ‘he had just gotten out of jail.’ He couldn’t be safe and how could Marinette to that?
“Marinette is safer with Jason more then she ever would be with any you. Judging someone on the their appearance alone is immature at best. His style is more ‘street’ or ‘biker’, not criminal. Seeing how you claim to a consultant to the head of Hearts Fashion House, you would know something as simple as that. Furthermore, if you continue to insult my brother or my family I will lose my civility with you.” He growled, his eyes narrowing slightly. While he may not like Jason most of the time, Damian really did, deep down, care for his brother. Being in the Wayne family for the last few years taught him the importance of family. They always had his back, and now was a time to have one of theirs.
Not bothering to wait an answer, Damian stocked off in search of the headmaster. Anyone on his path scurried out of his way. Everyone knew never to get in the Ice Prince’s way when angry, not unless you had a death wish.
When Damian finally arrived at the manor, he was not happy. Explaining what happened to the headmaster was simple, putting up with the exchange class wasn’t. None of them were stupid enough to approach him the rest of the day. So they settled for throwing glares his way, and whispering behind his back. The liar learned to keep her mouth shut about both Marinette and the ‘biker guy’ after being outright laughed at by a few students.
When he entered the manor, the first person he met was surprisingly his father. With Dick and Tim behind him. They all looked like they were waiting for him.
“I’m sure you are well aware of what happened, seeing as the Jason showed up at your school to take the girl who happens to part of the exchange program in your class.” Bruce asked, arms folded, his face not quiet readable.
“I was unaware that she was even in the class until this morning. I spent 3 hours trying to contact Todd in order to let him know. What happened after that wasn’t my fault.”
“So you didn’t think that Jason would come as soon as he heard the news?”
“I speculated, yes. Now why the questions. I already did damage control with the school. They are expecting a call for you later Father, to confirm.”
“Confirm what exactly, Damian?”
“That Todd and Marinette knew each other when they were younger, and that they haven’t seen each other in years. He was worried when he saw her again due to the footage on the news. And that Marinette will be coming back to classes as soon she is able.” Damian said, mimicking his father’s posture, “Now why all the question? Why not just ask Todd?”
“He’s hiding.” Dick said, a small pout in his voice.
“Then why not ask Alfred where they are?”
“Because Alfred won’t tell us where they are. He made it quiet clear that he would only inform us where they were when all of us are present.” Tim informed him, slightly tired and very irritated.
“That I did Master Drake, and seeing as you all are here, you may follow me.” Alfred said, seemingly to appear at he mention of his name. “Now I feel it prudent to warn you that the injures Miss Marinette are very evident. Please try not to draw attention to them. She had enough to deal with as it is.” Alfred instructed them, leading them far into the older part of the house and into one of the rarely used sitting rooms. Inside, a fire was burning softly and curled up on the couch facing the door was Jason and a tiny girl wearing what appeared to be one of Jason’s old hoodies. The girl was curled against Jason’s side, her entire body tucked under his arm. The girl appeared as if she was sleeping. Her face was relaxed, her breathing even.
Damian, who had seen her bruising before, could help but think that the glow of the fire made it look worse. Before the bruise just looked purple, but the firelight made her face look black, almost like an infection. She looked horrible.
The older Wayne’s stiffened at the sight of her. One quick glance was all Damian need to see the looks of shock and anger filter across their faces. Dick looked about ready beat whoever did it. Tim’s face had gone blank, his eyes sparking with furry and no doubt planning his own investigation. No one get bruises like that unless they where in fight or an abusive relationship. The person who hit her did not hold back. Bruce, well Bruce seemed be channeling his inner Batman. Silent anger shimmered around him and the aura that would send common criminals running. But there was also this strange air of fondness at the sight of Jason gently stroking the girl’s dark locks. If they reacted like this to just her bruises, Damian almost didn’t want to see what they would do when they saw her eye.
Turning back to the duo, Damian had to admit that they look a little strange together. Jason was big. He was made of solid muscle, standing 6’2”. His personality was loud and confident. The girl, Marinette, on the other hand was so tiny. Damian guessed that she stood maybe 5’ 2”, weighing 95lb or less, with a personality more along the lines of a rabbit. Timid. But that could be due to whoever gave her the injures.
“If you guys wake her, I’m going to be seriously tick. She just fell asleep.” Jason’s voice, quiet as it was, snapped all of them out of their own thoughts.
Snapping his attention back to the pair, the group found that Jason wasn’t even looking at them. He was just looking down at the girl tucked against him with what could only be described as the look of a dotting and worried older brother. A look that none of the family ever thought they would see on Jason Todd’s face. While the look was strange, it appeared natural. It almost looked like he had found himself again. Everyone could only remember how he had always pushed them way, never letting them get too close. Even after he had come back, while he had relaxed more, he had never displayed this side. It almost felt like they were witnessing something sacred.
“Bruce, we need to talk.” Jason said, his tone serious as he finally turned his attention to his family who still stood in the entrance.
“What happened to her?”
All eyes turned to Dick as he stepped closer, studying her face. No one missed the slight tightening of Jason’s arm around her, nor the flicker of protectiveness that flashed through his eyes. And for a split second, Damian could have sworn that he saw a spark of green flame leap from the corner of Jason’s eye.
“That’s what we need to talk about.”
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
“She said what!?!”
The sound of Dick’s voice echoed though the room, bouncing off the walls. Jason was never more thankful for Alfred, who had insisted that they have their ‘discussion’ in a private room away from Marinette. If they hadn’t, Nettie definitely would have been woken up by Dick’s shouting. As more of the story unfolded, the more the family became agitated. When Damian added what had been said after the duo had left, they looked ready to pay the class a ‘visit’ themselves. Unsurprisingly, it was Alfred who refocused them on the issue at hand.
“I have a feeling there is more you’d like to tell us Master Jason.”
“Nettie didn’t tell me anything explicated. No names, reasons, nothing.” Jason informed them, running a hand through his hair before continuing. “She didn’t say much of anything really and that’s why I know its bad.”
The questioning looks the rest of the family caused Jason to struggle with his next words. He had never talked about Nettie before to his family, or anyone for that matter. Trying to talk about her now, even though she was very much alive, was hard. Telling them about her quirks, things only he would know about her felt almost like he was betraying her in some way. It felt wrong. Like if given half an opportunity, any information he told them would be used against both him and Nettie. That it could be used to take her away again. The more he thought about the ‘what ifs’, the more panicked he became. Shaking those thought out of his mind, he focused on the question at hand. He had to. For Nettie, he could push past this. For his sister.
“Nettie doesn’t like talking about … messy emotions or . . . bad experiences. Depending on how bad it is, if its brought up she will just shut down. Especially if someone was abusing her. It happened before. Back when I first met her. There was this guy, he was around sixteen, who lived in the same building as us. I, I was gone most of the time … working. Whenever I would see them, he was always talking with her. Whenever I would ask about him, she would shrug and just say he was a friend and change the subject. If I tried to push it, she would clam up. I didn’t like him at all. I didn’t trust him. One day I came back earlier then usual and I heard shouting, and Nettie crying. When I opened the door, that bastard was holding her by arm, hitting her.” Jason said, just the memory of it made him sick.
He could still see how small she had looked trying to pry her arm away as that scum hit her. He remembered how something inside him had snapped, the sound of something breaking as he punched the guy. How something destructive whispered in his ear, telling him he needed to protect what was his. Only for the voice to be subdued by Nettie’s pained whimpers. He settled for growling a threat at the monster before turning his attention to Nettie.
“I later found out he had been doing that for around a year before I met her. He would take what little money she had and if she didn’t have enough, he would beat her. He told her it was payment for living next to him.” Jason said, unconsciously white-knuckling the edge of the table. “That’s why I know the situation is abusive. If it wasn’t, she would tell me. This … this had to have been going on for at least a year. And if the teacher is allowing it, and placing the blame on her, Nettie definitely wouldn’t say anything. Not if it involves someone she views an adult.”
For a few, long moments, the entire family was eerily silent. They may not have even officially met this girl, but no one, no one should have to go through that. While their concern spiked to new height, they also felt a small twinge of fear. They had known individuals who had suffered less then this girl and had been driven to insanity. Had broken under the pressure. If she hadn’t broken already, she wouldn’t be far from her breaking point. That knowledge, coupled with the facts that both Jason and Damian had provided, hardened their resolve.
“She’s staying here.”
Bruce’s statement held so much conviction that even Alfred seemed impressed. Relief flooded through Jason. If Bruce was already in protective mode, then Nettie was going to be fine.
“Bruce, not to burst your bubble, but you can’t do that.”
“What are you talking about, Tim. She’s a Gothamite. He has every right to and Gordon will back him up on this.” Dick exclaimed. His hands moving in rhythm with his speech.
“Was. She was adopted. Internationally. The adopted child then takes on the citizenship and nationality of their parents, revoking their right to their native country and vi versa. This is done to protect the child in the event that something goes wrong and the child’s native country tries to force them to come back. Unless otherwise stated in the adoption forms or something wasn’t signed, then she is not an American citizen anymore. Nulling Bruce’s right to claim guardianship over a suspected abused minor and tying Gordon’s hands in any investigation.” Tim informed them, his voice straying as he tried to keep himself from yelling.
“Then it’s a good thing I have a couple friends in the French embassy who owe me a couple favors. I’ll be able to get us a couple days at least. That’ll give us enough time to find that flaw in the forms, there’s always one.” Bruce said, and for a moment, the boys could see the business side of him. “We’ll also get our lawyers to nail that girl with slander and defamation. We’ll lay more charges as they become available. They’ll also be drawing up lawsuit papers. Tim, I want you looking into that class. Find out everything you can about their relationship with Marinette, and any other claims this Lila’s made. Damian,” Bruce said, pausing as he addressed his youngest. Through the entire conversation, Damian hadn’t said much, which was unusual. He always had something to add. It usually being a snarky remark, but he hadn’t said anything. “Damian, I want you to watch over Marinette at school. Don’t let that class get near her again. Enlist help if needed, but don’t leave her alone.”
The only affirmation Damian gave was a curt nod, but it was more then enough. If Damian had a problem, he would have voiced it by now. He would have her back.
“… There’s one more thing I need to tell you. About Nettie.” Jason said, taking a second to breath before explaining. “Nettie, Nettie’s different. She’s special. The kid, she’s insanely smart. Like rivaling Tim smart. She’s … an analyst. If she stays here, heck, if she gets to know you for any length of time she will figure you out. I just … you need to know that if she stays here, she will find out. She may not say it, but she’ll know.”
“We’ve handled analysts before. The only people who have figured our identities out, aside from Tim, took years. Three months is not going to be enough time for her to figure it out.”
“When she was six, she saw Harvey Dent at a press conference. She locked eyes with him for a second. Do you know what she told me after? She said he had two different faces. That his soul was tainted, and that his scared faced was going to win. That was a year before his accident. A year before Two-Face made his debut.” Jason said, locking eyes with Bruce.
While Jason knew it was a risk saying that, he needed them to know. He didn’t want to tell them, but he couldn’t keep it secret. They would find out anyway and Jason knew it would turn out better for everyone if they found out from him. He also wasn’t about to allow Bruce to disregard his sister or her intelligence.
“Is she meta?”
Bruce’s question echoed through the room. Everyone knew his stance on meta-humans in Gotham. All eyes turned to Jason, each waiting for his answer.
“Is she meta, Jason?”
“… she’s harmless, Bruce.” Jason whispered.
If it was possible, the room grew quieter at the confirmation. No one knew what to do, or think for that matter. Metas and Gotham was never a good mix. If one when rogue, it spelt chaos. But they couldn’t not do anything.
“Father, one thing I have learned from you and living in family is that we help anyone who needs it. Regardless of who they are. If they need our help and protection, we give it. If we turn her away on the account of what she is, something she has no control or say over, then perhaps what I learned was wrong. Though regardless of your final decision, I am still helping her.” Damian said, shocking the family, especially Jason.
Everyone, Alfred included, stared at him like he had sprouted horns. They would have been less surprised if that happened.
“Why?” Bruce asked, carefully keeping his expression blank. Damian didn’t hesitate for moment before answering.
“My instinct is telling me to help her. It’s never wrong. She needs help and I’m going to give it.”
Jason could kiss the little demon right now! Of all the people to back him and Nettie up, he never thought it would be Demon Spawn. Turning his attention back to Bruce, Jason still found his blank face, though he could see the calculating look in his eyes along with a spark of pride.
“It’s good to know you have taken something to heart, Damian.” Bruce said, a small smile playing on his face. “Jason, while I don’t like metas, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to help your sister. We’ll just keep a closer eye on her. And we’ll make sure this information does not get out.”
If Jason hadn’t felt like crying before, he did now. He had been ready to grab Nettie and get the hell out of the house and Gotham if Bruce had shown any form of hostility towards her. Instead, Damian had come to her defence and Bruce had agreed to let her stay. He agreed to let her stay!
Forcing back the sudden lump that had formed, Jason sent Damian a grateful smile before turning to addressing the rest of the family, but a soft voice cut him off.
“What’s a meta?”
Chapter 13: Chapter 13
When Jason arrived he had thrown the station for a loop. But his departure had thrown it straight into a mad house. He had come tearing through the station like a bull, and given the situation, it was understandable. But the way he booked in out of there after the phone call really caught everyone’s attention. He ran like Joker was chasing him. No explanation, excuses, nothing. The chatter of the office grew to the point of frenzy. While normally Gordon would have silenced the needless chatter, he didn’t. His mind was preoccupied with the information Jason had supplied before his sudden departure. While he hadn’t gone in depth, the story appeared very plausible. They needed something more, anything to confirm Jason’s story.
Something else was nagging at the back of Gordon’s mind. He knew it was important, but he couldn’t place it. He was missing something.
What was it?
It was something big.
Something he knew.
What was he missing?
The shout broke Gordon out of his thoughts. Turning his attention to the speaker, Gordon found Officer Hill holding a file, looking at him in concern.
“Are you ok Chief? You seem really out of it.” The concern in Hill’s voice was palatable.
“Yeah, just tired. Now what do ya got for me?” Gordon asked, running a hand over his eyes as a yawn escaped. Good lord, he needed coffee.
“Chief, maybe you should get some rest. Go home. Get some sleep, or at the very least go to the break room to get a couple hours. We can show you what we got later.”
“I’ll get some soon. Just show me what you got and I’ll get some sleep. I promise.”
Hill studied him for a few moments. Gordon knew he didn’t look good. His hair, which was usually neat, was disheveled, he was wearing clothes that were two days old, and he knew he had bags under his eyes. But he could look at one more file before resting. Sighing, Hill turned the folder over to him.
“We scanned that photo Jason brought and ran it through the program. Take a look for yourself.” He said as Gordon opened it. Inside was a perfect replica of Marinette, minus the bruising and red eye. Honestly, it was scary how perfectly they matched. The program, while it was fairly accurate, it had never produced a perfect prediction.
“How many times did you run it?”
“Four times. Every time it turned out the exact same.”
This was good. This was really good, but he was too tired to deal with it right now.
“I’m gonna go home for a few hours. While I’m gone, I want someone to pull the case regarding the night Jason Todd was found. I want every file from that night. I don’t care what’s it of, I want someone to comb through them for any abnormalities. I also want copies on my desk when I get back. Oh, and Hill,” Gordon said as he was leaving. “You and every other personal whose been here since yesterday, go home and get some rest.”
Gordon couldn’t remember how he got home safely. He vaguely remembered unlocking his door and falling onto the couch before sleep took him. Hours later, he woke up to his phone ringing. Fumbling for the cordless phone on the side table, Gordon rubbed the sleep from his eyes before answering.
“Hey Dad. It’s Barb. I think your phone’s dead. I’ve been trying to call you for the last hour. Office said you went home. Did I wake you?”
“No, not really. I needed to get up anyway. How’s your vacation? Where are you and the girls now?”
“It’s great actually. We’re on one of the small Polynesian islands. Rach and Alisa are enjoying the sun. Dad, when you either take a vacation or retire, you need to come here. It’s the perfect place to relax.” Barbra said in a mock teasing tone. Everyone knew that Gordon never took a vacation. “But enough about that. I uh, saw something interesting on the new involving you, a very tiny girl, and a truck. Care to explain?”
Gordon couldn’t help the small chuckle that escaped. Barbara, bless his little girl, was always voicing her concerns about him.
“Barbara, it was nothing. I’m fine.”
“Nothing? Dad, it was not ‘nothing’. You got hit by a car! And Madison said you left twelve hours ago after spending over thirty-six hours working on the case involving that girl.” Barbara said, a slight edge of annoyance to her voice.
“Ok, the car barely clipped, it wouldn’t even count as a hit. And as for Madison, did she give you any details?”
“Dad, Madison may be a gossip, but she knows when she can’t share information.”
“Good. Then you also know that even if I wanted to, I cannot give you any information either.”
“I know, I know. I just … I was just worried, Dad. Your fifty-five. You can’t do what you did when you were thirty. Just … don’t make yourself sick, ok?”
The worry in her voice was very evident, even over the phone. Gordon could practically see her chewing her bottom lip in frustration.
“You don’t need to remind me of my age, Honey. I’ll be fine. Stop worrying about me and enjoy your vacation.”
“Ok, ok. I’ll ignore you. I won’t spare you a passing thought for the remaining three weeks I have on my vacation. The only time I’ll think about you is when I’m looking for a tacky and overpriced souvenir for you.”
“Love you Barbara.”
“Love you too, Dad.”
When Gordon arrived back at the station, things where a little calmer. They were a lot calmer actually. Everyone was still working, but it wasn’t in that chaos filled way like before. A lot of the night staff were filling out reports while the morning cops who had already received their assignments where heading out. Most of the personal who were involved in Marinette’s case where all congregated around Hoffman’s desk.
“Morning Commissioner.” Hoffman’s overly cheery voice rang over the familiar buzz of the station.
“Why are you not trailing Marinette, Hoffman?”
“Mmm, ok, so I was. And before I tell you this, I did fill out a full report and it’s on your desk. So yesterday, I trailed her like you told me to. She wasn’t left behind, though she was running a late. I honestly don’t know why the teacher had her go to school. I mean that’s just wrong. The bruising is looking really bad by the way. Like, it really looks as if someone beat her. Anyways, she got to G.A. fine. Since I couldn’t follow her in, I just waited outside. It was 11:30 when G.A. let out for lunch. Marinette was waiting on the top of the stair, waiting for someone to come back. Anyway, as she was waiting, two girls from her class approached. You know, the one with the obnoxious hair and the one with the glasses? So, they started talking to her. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I’m guessing it was verbal bullying. Then Marinette said something that I’m guessing insulted them, specifically obnoxious hair, because they looked livid.” Hoffman said, her hands flying as she spoke.
“Hoffman, there better be a reason your telling me this instead of having me read the report.”
“There is and I’m getting to it. So I got out of my car cause it looked like it was gonna get physical and Marinette did not need anyone else to hit her. But before obnoxious hair could say anything, this guy comes up on his bike, breaking quick a few traffic laws, jumps off his bike yelling ‘Nettie!” I’m telling you, Marinette turned around so fast I thought she was going to get whiplash. Takes one look at the guy and launches herself off the top of the stair straight into his arms. The two were a crying mess. I’m telling you, the emotions in the atmosphere at the time made me wanna cry. I was a little too far way and he was talking too quietly for me to hear exactly what he was saying, but it sounded like he was apologizing to her. But of course, obnoxious hair went off in something in French. Whatever it was, it was bad enough to have the guy look up. When he did, I instantly recognized him as Jason Todd. And let me tell you, he flipped! He went from being an emotional mess to down right murderous! And then he started yelling at obnoxious hair in French, but then Marinette stopped him. Todd then put her on his bike and left, so I followed them. He took her to Wayne Manor and I waited outside. After a good eight hours of boredom, HQ called saying that Wayne had called them, informing them that while they appreciated the cop that was keeping an eye on Marinette, that they could go home. That Marinette would be staying there for the night with her ‘brother’. Apparently, he also said that he would be coming by later today to talk you.” Hoffman explained, her hands adding animation to her story. “And like I said, I did do an official report.”
“… Remind me to never ask to tell me a story again.”
The laughter that rang though the station made Gordon smile. He was also impressed when Hoffman joined in. At least she could take a joke.
“Sure thing, Chief.” She laughed. “Oh, um, before I forget. The social worker is in your office. She said she wanted to talk you as soon as you got in.”
“Thanks, and everyone, get back to work. You know what you’re suppose to do. And anyone who has anything for me, come in after the social worker leaves.” Gordon ordered, heading to his office as a murmuring of ‘yes chief’ filtered behind him as well as a few playful remarks to Hoffman.
Entering his office, Gordon let out a sigh. Hoffman had way too much energy in the morning.
“I see Officer Hoffman caught you with her story.” The sheer amusement in the voice had Gordon letting out an undignified snort.
Turning, Gordon met brown eyes that sparkled with amusement. Katherine Keene was a twenty-eight year old seasoned social worker. She had worked with Gordon and most of the GCPD before. She was good at her job. Effective, smart, quick witted, and an eye for detail, always picking up on things others missed.
“She doesn’t know when to stop.” Gordon said dryly, enticing a soft laugh from Katherine.
“At least she’s entertaining.”
“Sometimes a little too much. She said you wanted to talk to me?” Gordon asked, sitting down at his desk, taking a swing of his rapidly cooling coffee.
“I did. I went through the drawings, and as I said before, most of them are clothing designs. Very well done. The girl certainly has a gift for fashion. The rest of them consist of landscapes, skylines, and still life. At first I couldn’t find anything. While that is not uncommon, most of the time there is one or two pictures that stand out. These give you an idea of what to look for in the other that could pin-point what happened or a connection to someone who would know. As I said before, at first I couldn’t find anything. But after a while, I noticed something. In every single drawing, every single design, this symbol kept appearing. It blended in so well with the drawings that you would actively have to look for it in order to find it.”
“She was actively hiding it?”
“No. The human mind is very intricate, and for lack of a better term, mind boggling. In a traumatic experience, the mind will remember everything, but it will shut the memories out in order to protect itself. But your subconscious remember things, key point if you will. Images, sounds, smells, symbols. These things are what cause triggers. If the person is artistic and what they remember is a symbol, their subconscious puts it into their artwork. Which is what Marinette did. It’s the same symbol in every drawing.”
“May I see?”
Opening her briefcase, Katherine pulled out a folder. Sliding it over the desk, she waited for Gordon to open it before continuing.
“I searched it up in the local data base and I came up with nothing. I went national, still nothing. I then went international, and can you guess what I came up with?”
“Nothing. That brought up a lot of question. How can something that had such an impact on such a young girl, not be found on any data bases.” She said. “The symbol looked ancient, so I sent it a trusted friend of mine who specializes in ancient symbols. He got back to and told me that the symbol is one of the greatest mysteries of ancient history. The symbol has shown up in nearly every civilization. Ones that would’ve had no contact whatsoever with each other. No one knows what means. No one knows where it came from.”
“Any theories on it?”
“This is the really weird about it Gordon. Whenever my friend has tried to talk to his colleagues about, they all shot it down, saying it was stupid and unimportant. These are people who’s lives revolve around studying ancient symbols and what they mean and where they come from. No conspiracy theorist has ever touched this. Its as if the world is ignoring it or is not meant to see it. Only a select few are able to acknowledge it”
Gordon didn’t say anything for a few, long moments. The more he studied the symbol, the more he felt like he was looking at something that was not meant to be seen.
“Keene, I have a feeling we found something we weren’t suppose to.”
Chapter 14: Chapter 14
Alfred was not strangers to the sight injures. He was the family’s personal medic, after all. So yes, he had seen his fair share of broken bones, bruising, slices, and even exposed organs. His boys had always been reckless and payed for their mistakes, but they knew how to take them. Injures where part of their job. But nothing could have prepared him for Miss Marinette. When he first saw her face, he felt his heart break a little. But it was her eyes that truly made him angry. Not just because of the discolouration, but for the haunted look that lay buried beneath the blue. A look Alfred remembered seeing every day in the mirror for years after the war. She had the eyes of a survivor. Of someone who had seen death up close. They were the eyes of a soldier.
When she had locked eyes with him, Alfred couldn’t help the strong feeling of … connection wash over him. When she blinked, breaking the connection, Alfred couldn’t help but feel as if he past a test. Between the two of them, Alfred and Jason had been able to convince Marinette to take a shower to relax her muscles, and she consequently ended up on one of Jason’s sweaters.
Aside from bringing them some refreshments and an ice pack for Marinette’s swelling, Alfred had left the two children alone.
When it was discover Miss Marinette was a meta, Alfred had been ready to jump to her defence, only to be pleasantly surprised, though slightly shocked when Damian had spoken up for her. That surprise had turned to pride when Bruce allowed her to stay, though she would have whether he agreed or not. Alfred was not about to allow the girl out of his sight. But the pride turned to dread when Marinette’s voice cut through the room.
All attention was drawn to the door. Marinette stood just inside the frame, her hair disheveled, falling freely around her face. One hand was rubbing the sleep from her left eye. Her borrowed sweater dwarfed her small frame, the hem reaching almost past her knees while the sleeves where clutched in her hands, preventing them from falling. Ignoring the bruising, she looked adorable, but Alfred could not ignore the bruising. From the looks of it, the rest of the family couldn’t either. When she opened her eyes, Alfred could have sworn that he heard a growl come from Dick. The shock on their faces quickly disappeared into silent, building rage.
“Jason, what’s going on?” Marinette asked, her voice heavy with sleep, but alert enough to know something was off. They were silent for too long.
“ … Family meeting.”
“Ok, but what’s a meta? And why were you talking about it?” She asked again. Her voice was steady, but Alfred could detect an underlying current of panic that was beginning to rise.
“Meta is short for metahuman.”
“ … and metas are different from ordinary people. They have gifts, powers that set them apart. And while some people, Bruce included, have issues with them, he doesn’t hate them. He’s just … cautious.” Jason explained. “Reason being is that Gotham has a way of … bringing out the worst in people. And the knowledge that they are above normal sometimes makes them think they are above the law.”
“ … And the reason we where talking about them was because I … told them about your gift.” Jason said, and Alfred could pinpoint the exact moment Marinette realized what Jason was referring too. “And before you yell at me, Nettie, just … I’m sorry. I … I know I should have asked you before I said anything. And I know I had told you not to tell anyone about. And you have every right to be mad at me for this. But I trust them.”
Marinette had looked ready to bolt from the room the entire time Jason was talking. The panic that had flashed through her only to be surpassed immediately was both impressive and concerning. The ability to be able have such a tight control on ones emotions took years of practice. She only paused at the last three words Jason had said. Her eyes flashed from Jason to the rest of the family, never holding their gaze for more then a few seconds before jumping to the next. When her gaze came to Alfred, he again felt that slight sense of connection. When she moved on, the feeling of passing a test came back. When she returned to Jason, her body was still pulled taunt, but she had lost the frightened rabbit look.
“ … If you trust them, then that’s enough for me.”
Alfred couldn’t help the smile that came at the sight of Jason visible relaxing at her words. He also didn’t miss the signs of the tension the rest of the family melt away.
“Perhaps now would be a good time for introductions.” Alfred said, subtly reminding the boys of their manners.
“Of course. My apologizes miss. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Bruce Wayne. This is my oldest, Richard Grayson.”
“Just call me Dick. It’s an honour to meet you.”
“My second youngest, Timothy Drake.”
“Pleasure to meet you. And Tim’s fine.”
“My youngest, Damian.”
Unsurprisingly, Damian gave her a polite nod, but nothing else.
“And you’ve already met Alfred.”
“Miss,” Alfred said in acknowledgement, bowing slightly.
“Hello, I’m Marinette. Th … thank you. For having me.” She said, sending them a sweet smile.
“If you’re family to Jason, you’re family to us.” Bruce assured her. “Though I do have to ask, just so we can understand the situation better. What exactly is your ability and what does it allow you to do?” he asked, giving her small, encouraging smile.
Everyone, Damian and Alfred included, gave Marinette their full attention. For a moment, it looked like she might leave or at the very least refuse to say. But an encouraging nudge from Jason had her taking a breath before returning her focus back on them.
“I, it’s kinda hard to explain. I’ve … I’ve always been able to ‘see’ what kind of person someone is. Whether I can trust them or not. That one is always on. I can’t turn it off.”
“And the other one?” Bruce probed, though he waited patiently for her to answer.
“I… with the other one. With what happened … with Mr. Dent. I . . . it comes on at random. It’s … like seeing what their soul looks like. Like I’m seeing who, and what they truly are. But it hasn’t happened since the night that …” she said, trailing off at the end. And Alfred could only guess she was referring to the night that she and Jason were separated.
“So you can see someone for who they are?” Dick asked, thankfully noticing where her mind was going, attempting to distract her.
“Can you do me? I’m honestly curious how it works.”
“I … I don’t…” she began to say, foundering to come up with an excuse. But Dick cut her off.
“Please?” he asked, giving her his ‘puppy-dog-eyes’.
“… You … You carry a lot on your shoulders. A lot of baggage. You … have a tendency to look back on your regrets and you don’t let yourself move on. You always ask the ‘what if?’ You strive and strive to prove yourself. To make up for something. You cherish the family you have now, but you’re afraid that one day, its all gonna fall apart. So you smile through the pain, because your afraid that if you stop, then everything will disappear.”
As Marinette spoke, Dick’s eager smile slowly faded as his eyes widened in shock.
“But, there’s always hope shining. You also have a big heart. Some say it’s too big. You believe what you are doing is right with everything you are. You love your family to the point where it hurts. You’re trustworthy.”
For a few, painfully long moment, no one did anything. Dick just stared at the girl who had, without any back story or reference whatsoever, summed up his life in a few sentences. Told him fears and insecurities that no one knew. Slowly, a smile spread across his face, lighting up his blue eyes.
“ … It’s official. I think I’m gonna like you.”
Chapter 15: Chapter 15
It had been exactly a week since ‘the accident’. The station was no less busy than normal for a Monday, but everyone seemed listless. Apparently the station seemed to lack any sort of internal drama so Hoffman decided to rat out her desk mate who had been playing Galaga on his computer instead of doing his paperwork. That had caused Jackson, her desk mate, to inform the entire department that Hoffman was the one who was responsible for stealing all the unlabeled lunches in the staff room. They still weren’t on speaking terms, but Gordon was thankful for the break in bickering.
One of the Wayne lawyers had come by the station, informing Gordon that Marinette would be staying with the family. They also stated that if Marinette’s class or teacher caused the GCPD any trouble, to refer them back to them and they would deal with it. Unsurprisingly, but the fact still grated on Gordon’s nerves too no end, was the fact that Bustier hadn’t called at any point during the rest of the week. While Gordon knew that the Wayne’s would have let her know of the changes, the fact that the teacher didn’t seem to care to at the very least let the police know about the change was disheartening.
He still had a few of the staff digging into the night Jason was found, looking for any abnormal activity or incidents. So far, the only thing they had come up with was that the culprits were never caught or identified. There were also no witnesses to what had happened. While it wasn’t uncommon for there to be no witnesses in Gotham, the fact that the attack happened in one of the few places that had no cameras caused some red flags. It seemed too clean for it to not be planned. Whoever did it, knew what they were doing.
“No, don’t give them to Hoffman, she’ll eat them all!”
“Oh please! I’ll share, Galaga. You need stop accusing other of crimes they haven’t committed yet. And you call yourself a cop? Yeash.”
“Really? Then let me have some.”
“Never said I’d share with you.”
‘I knew the quiet wouldn’t last long.’ Gordon muttered, shoving the report away before walking out of his office to see what the two stooges where fighting about now. The first thing he saw was something that he knew he would never forget. Hoffman held a box in one hand as high above her head as she possible could, while pushing Jackson away by his face with her other hand, leaning way from him as he tried to snatch the box. Honestly, it looked like something straight from a school yard, only with officers in uniform, completed with the rest of the station just watching but no one attempting to intervene.
The second thing he notices was as much of as surprise, but a more pleasant one. There, dressed in Gotham Academy’s colours, stood Marinette watching the two clowns fight over whatever was in the box, a smile etched on her face.
“Hoffman. Jackson. Can you two idiots try to give this station a little bit of dignity?” Gordon asked, a small smile barely showing itself at the sight of how both froze mid-shove before letting each other go, muttering a faint apology.
“Marinette, how are you doing? You going to school today?” Gordon asked, turning his attention to the girl. She looked better. Not by a lot, but you could see the difference. The swelling in her face had disappeared. The bruising from the hand print had faded some, blending into the rest of the bruising. The bruising itself was in the process of changing from purple to yellow. In his opinion, the changing bruises looked worse then solid purple. Gordon could see the evidence of make-up, allowing the bruising to look less extreme, not that he blamed her. If she was going to school, the last thing she’d want would to be stared at. The only thing that didn’t seem to change was the discolouration of her eye. Her right eye was still as red as it was the last time he saw her.
“I … I’m better. A lot better. I had just wanted to come by to say thank you. For everything everyone did. And … and I brought some pastries. That … that’s what Officer Hoffman’s holding.” Marinette said, her voice low and gentle, as if speaking too loud would get her in trouble.
“Well that explains it.” He said, humor in his tone as he gave Hoffman an unimpressed glance.
“I … I’m sorry. I didn’t know if it was allowed or not but Jason said it would be fine and I didn’t mean to get anyone in trouble I just wanted to do something as a thank you and …” Marinette stuttered, voice growing slightly panicked as she rambled.
“Marinette, it’s perfectly fine. It’s not against any rules. Ok. Just breath.” Gordon said, making sure to keep his temper in check. If she went off like this right off the bat, whatever damage had been done was deep. As if she would get trouble for being thoughtful. “I just said because Hoffman has a reputation of eating everything that comes in.”
“I can not be expected to work these hours without something to eat. Besides, I’m not the one to worry about. Hill …”
“You want to finish that sentence, Hoffman?” Hill yelled, shutting Hoffman up with the unsaid threat.
Gordon had never wanted to strangle his men as badly as he did now. They were never this relaxed around others. Frankly, it was unprofessional and embarrassing the watch. But with the laugh they were able to extract from the nervous girl in front of them, he was willing to let it slide. This time.
“I can’t stay long. I have school and Damian’s waiting outside for me. I just wanted to drop these off and say thank you. Oh, this one’s for you Commissioner. And Bruce wanted me to give you this. He said it was important.” Marinette said, handing Gordon a separate box along with a rather large envelope.
“Are you sure you’re up for going? I’m sure the teachers wouldn’t mind giving you another day or two.” Gordon asked, taking the box and envelope, surprised by the weight of them.
“Jason said the exact same thing. And while the teachers may not mind, I do. I’ve already missed a week and I’m already going to be in enough trouble as it is. Plus I … I came here to learn.” Marinette said, a smile lighting up her face. “Besides, the class is touring Gotham Museum today and I wouldn’t miss that for anything.”
“Well, if you get too bored, you can always come hang out down here.” Gordon said, half joking. While he was happy Marinette was feeling up to rejoining the class, he didn’t like it. Not after what he had witnessed.
“I’ll keep that in mind. I gotta get going, but I’ll see you later, ok?” Marinette said, turning to head out. Pausing after two steps, she turned around again catching Gordon’s eyes for a moment. “Commissioner, even though you don’t see it, you really are making a big difference. In some ways, even more then the Bats are.”
With those last words of encouragement, Marinette quickly disappeared through the doors of the station just as thunder rumbled through the city.
“She is like a ray of sunshine.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Oh come on. You seriously can not tell me that you did not feel that. As soon as she came in, everything felt lighter. Brighter. And you got a special box of pastries. If that’s not sunshine reincarnation, then I don’t know what is.”
“Hoffman, we can talk about Gotham’s sunshine later. Now did you find anything?” Gordon asked, agreeing with Hoffman’s description completely. The station had felt brighter with Marinette there.
“Fine, we’ll finalize the stations adoption of her later. And as for your question, no I did not find anything in the files, but I did find something interesting in the emergency call logs.
“Emergency calls?” Gordon asked, ignoring Hoffman’s quip about adoption. Instead, he divided his attention between the contents of the envelope Marinette had given him, and Hoffman’s explanation.
“Yeah. For a solid fifteen minutes, there was a little over forty calls reporting an ‘earthquake’. Almost all the calls stated that air in their houses shifted and that they felt the ground rumble. Freaked them out. I was listening to the recordings and they were legitly scared, Gordon. Anyways, interesting fact: all these calls came within a three mile radius from where Jason was found.” Hoffman said, sounding pleased with herself
“This is perfect!” Gordon exclaimed, startling the personal within ear shot.
“It better be. My eyes are dry and bug-eyed from staring at the screen so long.”
“Not that Hoffman, but we can still use that. Look into it and see if they notice anything else out of the norm. But this,” Gordon said, waving around the paper as if it was the winning ticket. “This is perfect. We got our permit!”
Chapter 16: Chapter 16
“Are you sure everyone is out of the building? Teachers! Do a headcount! NOW!” Gordon yelled, the rain pouring down in torrents now. The storm that had started that morning, had quickly become a heavy downpour by noon, and by the time they had gotten the call to Gotham Museum, it had become brutal. He could barely be heard over the sound of the storm. The streets surrounding the museum where all blocked. The police had corralled the museum visitors away from the building, trying to make sure everyone had gotten out. With Scarecrow inside, they NEEDED to make sure there was no one inside. Media had shown up not long after they did, but this time, they, thankfully, were staying behind the barricade.
“No, you don’t understand! I need to get my students away from here. One of them is having a panic attack. If she stays here any longer, it’s going to escalate!” a woman shouted, and Gordon instantly recognized the voice. Marinette’s ‘teacher’. Whipping around, he spotting the woman without a problem. She was the only one arguing with his men. Storming up to the woman, Gordon could already feel his temper rising.
“What’s the issue?” he barked, causing both the officer and Bustier to jump.
“The problem is that your … officer, isn’t allowing my class to leave! Lila is having a panic attack and staying here is not going to help!” she hissed, eyes flashing with angry and annoyance. If she thought her ‘teacher’ glare would work on Gordon, she had another thing coming.
“Your student looks distressed at best, not in the middle of a panic attack. And I’ve seen plenty of them to know what one looks like. But if you’re really that concerned, let the paramedics look at her. They’ll know what to do. But we are not letting anyone leave until we know that Everyone is accounted for. Do I make myself clear?” Gordon growled, eyes flashing dangerously, his whole stance screaming authority.
“But nothing. Did you even do a head count or did you only assume you have everyone?” he asked, the disdain clear. Bustier was about to answer, though was interrupted.
“Commissioner, we’re missing two students! Claude Chmakova and …” a man, who Gordon recognized as Michel Spinale, one of the main teachers at Gotham Academy and main supervisor for the French class. But a commotion at the barricades cut him off.
“Kid you can’t go back in there!” Hill shouted as he and Hoffman physically were trying to restrain the person.
“Let me go cretins! She’s still in there!” the anger and fear that rang though the boy’s voice caused Gordon’s heart drop.
“Like hell we’re letting you back in there!”
‘Please God, no.’ Gordon thought, looking back at the huddle of people, desperately scanning for a head of midnight blue hair. Anyone but her.
“MARINETTE IS STILL IN THERE!”
“May I remind everyone that we representing our school, and for some of us, our countries. Any and all misconduct will result in a warning. After that, any other offense will result with the individual or group being sent back to the bus. The offense will also go on your record.” Mr. Spinale informed the class as they exited the bus, waiting to head into Gotham Museum. “For the first portion of the day, we will be with the museum’s tour guide. Afterwards, you will be free to explore the parts that interested you the most. It will be in your best interest to listen to the guide and gather information as you will be doing a report. The assignment is part of your grade. If you fail to pay attention, that’s your fault.” He added, not entirely pleased that he had to talk over majority of the French class. Nearly all seemed more interested in the ‘claim’ that Ms. Rossi knew the director of the museum, and that ‘yes, of course she could get them into the more secure part of the museum’ but ‘she didn’t want to misuse her connections’. In all honesty, Mr. Spinale was hoping that that part of the class did something, if only to allow him the opportunity to set them straight. Especially Ms. Rossi.
He knew she was a liar the moment she started spewing tales that sounded to good to be true. As the saying goes, something that sounds too good to be true, probably isn’t. But it looks like Rossi’s class hadn’t learned that lesson. The exception being Marinette. Though, she had been timid all that morning and had refused to release Damian’s hand, not that the boy seemed to mind. Mr. Spinale nor the rest of the class could wrap their minds around what had happened that morning when the two of them entered.
The entire class was loud. The students were chatting away in their own little groups. Some of the French students had ventured outside their group and were chatting with various students, though sadly majority of them where talking, more so listening, to the young Italian diva. Mr. Spinale couldn’t help but compare the girl to a spider. The way she would spin her stories was so intricate and fascinating that it drew people in, allowing her to ensnare majority of her class, regardless of the countless holes she left.
It was around fifteen minutes until class was scheduled to leave, and the entire class was there save for two students. While that fact wasn’t alarming, it was unusual. Damian Wayne was normally one of the first students to arrive, though the past week had proven to be an anomaly. So when the classroom door opened, everyone glanced up, many eager with teasing remarks on their lips, only for their jaws to drop.
Striding in with the same manor he always possessed, was Damian. Nothing was out of place with him, appearing as he normally does. The bored yet intense eyes to his ‘I’m-better-than-you’ aura. Just as scary, just as obnoxious and intimidating. The only small difference was the girl attached to his hand.
Marinette trailed along behind him, holding onto his hand like it was the only thing keeping her from running. She looked up once to give them a small smile, only to lower her head again at the sight of everyone one staring at her in shocked horror. Damian, on the other hand, openly glared at the class, especially those from the French class who were the most active in ‘teasing’ Marinette while she was gone. As he guided her to their seats, the entire class watch in shocked fascination as Damian placed himself between Marinette and the rest of the class, glaring at anyone who he happened to see glancing their way. No one dared approach the table, not even Claude. They had never seen him like that, ever, and they could only assume that Protective Damian was Dangerous Damian.
Pushing those memories aside to analysis later, Mr. Spinale, along with Ms. Bustier, let their class up the steps towards the giant doors of Gotham Museum. Upon entering, he couldn’t help but smile at the exchange class’s reaction to the architect of the entryway. For all it’s faults, Gotham’s architecture was one of the city’s redeeming qualities. It was absolutely breathtaking! From the cathedral like ceiling and archways, to the beautifully carve gargoyles, to the gothic colours and designs, Gotham was a city like no other.
As the tour guide lead them through the building, providing them with the history of not only the building itself, but also on majority of the displays, Mr. Spinale only had to glare at a select few individuals. The warning in his glares were enough to scare the students into submission. Throughout the tour, Spinale noticed how Damian would tell Marinette bits of interesting, though little known facts about the museum and architecture, always making sure not to speak loud enough for others to hear. He never seemed to leave Marinette’s side, nor did he let go of her hand.
That was another development that shocked him. The fact that Damian was even allowing her to that close to him was a miracle. But when Mr. Spinale witnessed Damian grab the girl’s hand and squeeze it during the tour due to something Rossi and Cessiere whispered, he was seriously beginning to question reality. He had seen Damian use more physical contact in the last three-four hours then he had in the last three years. A strange and unsettling development to be sure, but not entirely unwelcome.
Spinale knew very little about the boy. What he did know was common knowledge. Damian was the youngest of the Wayne family, the only blood-child. He was known to be temperamental, had anger issues that he seemed to be dealing with, was arrogant, and blunt to the point were he would often come across as rude. So to see this change, to see him being gentle with someone, protective of someone, was, well, it was shock. To see a girl who so easily seemed to slip past the walls/ this boy had built up was staggering. The girl had to be magic.
The main tour ended a little after noon. Mr. Spinale released the class to find lunch, with the instructions that they travel in pairs and to meet back in the entrance in an hour. From there they could explore the museum on their own.
They had been on the main floor when it happened. Marinette had wanted to take a closer look at some of the artwork on the second floor. Claude, who managed to convince Marinette to let him tag along, seemed content to just fire off dozens of questions on what she was going to do for her assignment, only to explain in detail what he was going to do. It was in the middle of Claude explaining why his assignment was going to be on the Gotham Crystals, that Damian heard it.
“Ugh, look at her. A boy on each arm. How desperate for attention can that slut be?” the red head with glasses, Cesaire, scoffed, send a glare at Marinette before turning to Rossi. “I bet she’s filling their heads with all sorts of lies about you, Lila. The dirty rat.”
“I honestly don’t know what she has against me. I mean, I tried to be nice, but all she does is bully me. I know she’s jealous, but still.” Rossi said, not bothering to lower her voice, seeming to preen under the attention she was getting from her classmates that were with her, all nodding in agreement. “And you can’t be too hard on those poor boys, Alya. She has been living with one for a week unsupervised, and after all, men will believe anything under certain … circumstances. And you know the rumors …” she added, shooting a meaningful look at the girl in question, who had, unfortunately, heard what was said, instantly shrank into herself.
Damian saw red. How dare they! How dare they! As if they hadn’t done enough to Marinette already. They just had to spread slander about her. Here. In his presences. After he made it known that she was under His protection! A snare ripped tore from his throat, catching the attention of everyone in the vicinity. As the French class chanced a look in his direction, he watched with sick satisfaction as fear crept into their eyes. Murder burning brightly in his eyes as he glared at them.
“How dare you attack her honor! I always knew your class was stupid, but I didn’t think you were this idiotic. Spreading lies like that in her presence, let alone mine. But all of you, especially you, Rossi, have shown me a completely new level of stupidity I didn’t think was possible.” Damian hissed, his tone turning mocking as he saw everyone freeze.
“Listen here, brat! I don’t know what that slut told you but …” Cesaire started to say, eyes flashing as she hugged the now crying Italian before she was cut off.
“Shut your filthy mouth, harlot, unless you want to lose your tongue, or worse!” Damian yelled, his voice carrying though out the building. The occupants of the museum, especially those in the immediate vicinity didn’t dare move. The reverberations of angry Arabic echoed throughout the building, shattering the peaceful atmosphere.
“Ms. Bustier, that is a warning for your class. I suggest you gain control. You, come with me.” Mr. Spinale ordered, dangerously close to losing what little patience he had left .
“But Marinette was the one …” Lila started to say, only to be silenced by the Gothamite teacher.
“Ms. Marinette had nothing to do with what happened. You all, especially you two, were not only bullying her, but slandering her name. All of which are not tolerated by G.A. or by me. And you all will be punished accordingly. You should be grateful I am letting you finish this field trip. You will stay with your teacher and away from Marinette. If any of you wander off or harass her again during the duration of this trip, you will have more trouble then you’ll know what to do with. Do I make myself clear?” he hissed, struggling to hold his temper in check. He didn’t need to cause a bigger scene. The shaky, fearful nods he received were enough. Grabbing Damian by the arm, he dragged the boy away from the crowd to a more secluded spot.
“What were you thinking? Before you go off saying I don’t know what happened, yes, I do. I know what they said. I get it, your protective of Marinette. What those two said pissed you off. And they will be punished accordingly. But you could have gotten kicked out. Who would look out for her then? Damian, that girl relays on you. Don’t think I haven’t noticed how she hasn’t let go of your hand. That girl is scared and right now you seem to be the one thing holding her together. Claude will only be able to hold her together for so long. Do not, I repeat, do not let yourself get kicked off this trip.” Mr. Spinale ordered. A few days ago, Damian would have taken offense to being order around and reprimanded by his teacher, but now, he was strangely thankful. He seemed to understand, and for that, Damian was grateful.
He was going to state as much, when an explosion shook the building, throwing everything into chaos.
“Damian, we can’t let you back in there, you know that!” Gordon yelled over the roaring of the storm. Multiple officers were actively hold the young Wayne back while Gordon tried talking sense into the boy. They couldn’t send anyone in there, not until Scarecrow made his demands known. Not when there were two civilians in there. Minors no less.
“NO! You don’t understand! I promised Jason I would keep her safe! I swore she could trust me to keep her safe!” he yelled, thrashing, or attempting to, though the grip of the three officers didn’t allow for much movement. The sharp sound of a slap rang through the air, snapping Damian out of his panic induced trance. All eyes snapped to Hoffman as she spoke.
“Listen kid, if Marinette is half as smart as she was at the station, she’ll be fine. One of your classmates is with her right? Then he’ll let her know what to do and what not to. But we need you to take a chill pill. Do you understand? Panicking is not going to do anything.”
“The officer’s right. Panicking will solve nothing.” A voice said as four bodies dropped onto the pavement beside the crew. Looks like the bats were finally there. “Commissioner, what’s the situation?”
“We got Scarecrow in there with at least four of his men, plus two hostages, Claude Chmakova from G.A. and Marinette Dupain-Cheng, who’s part of an exchange program from France.” Gordon said, taking notice on how the entire bat-clan seemed to freeze for a moment at the mention of Marinette. Red Hood, who seemed to have been the most tense, was the first to snap back.
“I’m gonna kill that damn freak!” he hissed, gripping his guns as he started for the stairs, only to be stopped by Nightwing.
“Hood, we can’t just go in there. We have no idea where they are. You going in there guns blazing will get them killed!”
“I am not gonna wait out here and do nothing while she is in there!”
“That’s not what I’m saying and you know it! We just need to …”
Nightwing never got the chance to finish as the ground began to shake, the force throwing everyone off balance. Everyone, especially those with ties to Gotham, felt the very foundations of Gotham groan, as if something was waking up. A sound that could only be compared to the shrieking of missiles, tore through the air, before a fiery, blue light exploded from the building, leaving chaos in its wake.
The moments following the explosion were a chaotic mess. At first, they thought the explosion was part of a new fear toxin. But, when no one showed any symptoms, well, that’s when people started to freak out. If it wasn’t the fear toxin, then what was it?
The first cameraman to recover was from GNN. The sound was nothing but static and the picture a little shaky, but Gotham and the rest of the world watched, gaping at the scene that unfolded. The giant windows of Gotham Museum, which had always been considered one of the most beautiful in North America, with its stain glass pigments and unique cuts, were shattered from the inside out. Buildings surrounding the museum were swaying dangerously. The camera spanned out, allowing viewers to witness the crowds of people struggling to pick themselves up. The sight of the destroyed buildings, glass and wreckage strewn about, cars totaled, silenced the horrified audience. The streets of Gotham, from that one camera lens that had miraculously survived the blast, looked like a war zone. The world watched as Gotham reeled from whatever caused the blast, uncertain of how to react. They saw what looked like blue wisps rain down slowly from the buildings, gently running down whatever it touched before pooling on the ground, vanishing into the ground.
Slowly, sound started to filter through the nearly broken mics, instead of static, it sounded more like a garbled mess. As if someone was speaking through a bad connection. For a brief moment, the camera frame caught a group of students, most appeared to be in a daze, as if they couldn’t understand what happened, and one girl in particular was well on the way to full blown hysteria. It caught the dazed looks of the other students before swinging around back to the front of the museum, catching a figure stumble through the door.
The pain in Jason’s head was nothing compared to the emotional terror he was experiencing. His pixie, His sister was in the building with a lunatic that took pleasure in the terror of others. His tiny, sweet sister, who couldn’t hurt anyone in the slightest without feeling guilty, was in the same building as that straw-stuffed coward. In the building that just exploded!
He needed to get up. His sister needed him! She needed him, damit! But he couldn’t move. It felt like ever muscle in his body had been electrocuted. But wasn’t a numbing pain, no, he could feel everything. From the layers of grim that was coating him, to the scratches, to his spazzing muscles, to that strange, cool sensation that rolled off him. But. He. Couldn’t. Move!
“…ood? Red Hood, can you hear me?” someone asked, though the voice was muffled as a face came into view. Nightwing’s face became clear, though he was covering in dust and debris as much as he was.
“N’wing, I can’t move.”
“Figures, a few of others are down too, Bat’s included!”
“Nettie. I gotta get … you gotta get,” Jason said, struggling to sit up, stifling the curse as he force his muscles to work. He needed to get Marinette out of there!
Before Dick could answer or attempt to persuade him to stay down , a shout drew everyone’s attention to the front of the museum. Dozens of heads turned to watch a figure emerge from the broken building. Stumbling down the giant stairs of the museum was a teen boy carrying a limp body.
“Someone help, please!” the boy shouted, frantically making his way down the broken steps. As they drew closer, others could see the haunted look in the boy’s eyes. They could see the fear, the concern, the complete panic as the person he was carrying began to shake.
Jason watched as Commissioner Gordon limped towards the two, taking the girl from the boy.
“Did she inhale any of the fear toxin?”
“No, s-sh-she was injected with the serum.” The boy said, “Please, you have to make sure Nettie’s ok!” he added tears pouring down his face as a set of medics rushed over to look him over.
“Get me an antidote, NOW!” Gordon barked, gently cradling the girl as he shouted orders.
At the mention of Nettie’s name, something sparked inside Jason. The pounding in his seemed to double, the only thing he could hear was the blood pulsating through his skull. Everything sharpened into focus into startling clarity as his vision narrowed. That was HIS sister! His sister that was shaking in Gordon’s arms. His sister that looked dead when she was carried out of the museum. His sister that was cry and screaming incoherently because of the nightmare Scarecrow forced her to live. Blood lust tore through his veins with such an intensity that, even in his rage filled mind, scared him. The voices in his head were torn between going in there and killing the monster that dared touch what was HIS to protect, or tearing HIS sunshine from Gordon’s and getting her as far away from here as possible. The latter almost won, but one part of his brain, the logical, sensible side that was magically still working, reminded him that he was Red Hood right now, not Jason. He couldn’t just go to her. Doing so would not only put her under more stress or shock, but it would also paint a bigger target on her back. And he could not, would not, allow any one to use her in order to get to him.
Looking over at her, Jason watched as Gordon held Nettie close, allowing her to cry as he did his best to calm her down. Watching the two of them, he and the voices both agreed that she would be safe with Gordon until he was done. Right now, he had a scarecrow to unstuff. And the strawman wouldn’t be coming out again for a very, very long time.
The soft stroke of the brush across the canvas was the only noise in the room as the artist brought the image to life. Just as his ancestors had done before him. Though many would say the image was too clean, too perfect, he would disagree. Perfection is what his family strove for. Perfection in all aspects of themselves. Though they had sadly, not been perfect for some generations. Something vital was missing, all due to a curse, a restriction placed on them. Yet the family still strove for perfection in all aspects, and he was the perfect heir. All he needed was the last piece of the puzzle, and then, he would reach a level of perfection none in his family had reached in generations, not since the Fall.
Stroke, stroke, dip, stroke. Each stroke was perfect. Ever placement, deliberate. And then he felt it. A slight shift in the atmosphere, powerful, wild, raw, and . . . unharnessed. He missed a stroke. The line went off course, destroying the painting, tainting the perfection of it. A knock was the only warning before the door was opened and a young man slipped in.
“Sir, we have activity. It’s the same reading as before, but this time it’s much stronger scale.”
“Did you track it?”
“We did. They’re in Gotham, America.”
“… Start the preparations. We leave immediately.”
The individual stood in place for a moment, savouring the fading feeling of the power, an almost impeccable smile on his lips.
“I finally found you, little angel, and in a place of demons. Quite … intriguing.”
Thank you guys so much for your support. I love reading you comments! They always bring a smile to my face. There were a few people asking if this was a non-miraculous au and if Plagg and Tikki were going to come in. They are in here, though it's taking a little longer to bring them in, but they are a vital part of the story.